WASHINGTON March 1, 2017 – Former Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke was confirmed by the U.S. Congress today as the new Secretary of the Interior under the Trump administration.

Rep. Zinke has a worrisome record as a member of the House of Representatives, having voted against protections for endangered wildlife and public lands. Defenders sent a letter to U.S. senators on Jan.13 urging them to use great care in questioning Zinke on his past positions.  Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO, issued the following statement:

“As Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke assumes responsibility for the nation’s priceless heritage of natural resources, including our great systems of national parks, national wildlife refuges, and public lands and our laws and programs that protect imperiled species and other wildlife.  Although his voting record in Congress has been troubling, we hope he will recognize and uphold his trust responsibility for stewardship of these fundamental American values.

“Defenders of Wildlife will seek to work closely with Secretary Zinke and his leadership team to meet the challenges facing our nation’s public lands and wildlife, outlined in the Wildlife Conservation Agenda we presented to the Trump administration following the election.  We will hold him accountable if he fails to provide sound leadership for the nation’s public lands and wildlife.”


Rep. Zinke’s legislative record shows that he has repeatedly promoted increased mining, drilling and logging on federal lands throughout the country. Zinke voted with other House Republicans on Jan. 3, 2017, to overturn a rule requiring Congress to account for the value of federal land before transferring it to states or other entities, which would make it easier for lawmakers to giving up federal control of public lands.

Rep. Zinke has also supported harmful legislation that would severely undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and remove or block protections for hundreds of imperiled species, including greater sage-grouse, northern long-eared bats and gray wolves. He voted against Rep. Niki Tsongas’ (D-MA) amendment to strike riders attacking these species from H.R. 2822, the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2016.  He also co-sponsored H.R. 4739, the “Greater Sage-Grouse Protection and Recovery Act of 2016,” which would overturn a $45 million public planning process to conserve the imperiled greater sage-grouse and prohibit the Fish and Wildlife Service from even considering the species for protection under the Endangered Species Act for at least a decade. It also would have effectively transferred management oversight of 60 million acres of federal lands to the states.

As Secretary of the Interior, Zinke will be the steward of the nation’s public lands, including the national parks, national wildlife refuges, and the public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.  He will also be responsible for oversight over the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and other critically important wildlife conservation laws, as well as the Department of the Interior’s efforts to curb international wildlife trafficking that threatens the survival of species like the elephant and rhinoceros.  Defenders of Wildlife outlined eight critical conservation challenges facing the federal government in its Wildlife Conservation Agenda for the next administration.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.