President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected yet another veteran for his cabinet, this time snagging Republican Congressman and former Navy SEAL Ryan Zinke for secretary of the Department of the Interior.
Joining an all-star cast of former military men that include General James Mattis (Ret), Lieutenant General Michael Flynn (Ret), General John Kelly (Ret), and former USAF C-130 pilot-turned Texas Governor Rick Perry, the 55-year-old Zinke served for 23 years in the United States Navy and retired at the rank of Commander.
A lifelong hunter, fisherman and conservationist, Zinke has been an advocate for keeping federal land open to the public, going so far as to quit his post on the GOP platform-writing committee after the group included language in a bill that would have transferred the ownership of federal lands to the states.
“What I saw was a platform that was more divisive than uniting,” Zinke said after he stepped down. “At this point, I think it’s better to show leadership.”
Zinke has broken ranks with the GOP on several occasions when it comes to matters of conservation, including a measure that would have allowed each state to buy up 2 million acres of US Forest Service land for timber usage.
Montana-based Backcountry Hunters and Anglers’ president and chief executive Land Tawney has praised Zinke as a “straight shooter” who has well-established credibility with outdoors enthusiasts in Montana, where he famously showed up in a Whitefish distillery in flip-flops.
“You wouldn’t know he’s a congressman,” Tawney told the Washington Post. “He really prides himself on being a Theodore Roosevelt Republican, and he lives that a little bit more than other people.”
Tawney said that Zinke has been endorsed by the Outdoor Industry Association, who reported over 200,000 Montana residents have big game hunting licenses and 300,000 have fishing licenses.
“Hunting and fishing isn’t something we do in Montana, it’s a way of life,” said Tawney, a fifth-generation Montanan.
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership President Whit Fosburgh reports being “very supportive” of the former Navy SEAL stepping into the DoI Secretary role.
“He’s shown courage and commitment to public lands and conservation and [is] someone we think would be an excellent secretary of interior,” Fosburgh said.
Highly regarded by his peers and supervisors, Zinke received two Bronze Stars for combat and a slew of other awards before his discharge in 2008.
In 2014, Zinke was pressed by the Democratic Party to release all of his military records, which his 80% disability rating from the VA.
“I was surprised it was that high because I can still run,” he said at the time. “I can swim. It hurts. There are a lot of internal problems that I have. I guess if I would have stayed longer I would have made 100 percent.”
Zinke has filled several prestigious command roles, including deputy and acting commander of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force–Arabian Peninsula in 2004 and the “Dean” of Naval Special Warfare graduate school, where he remained until retirement.
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