Trump Picks Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke for Interior Secretary

PHOTO: Ryan Zinke (L) arrives at Trump Tower, Dec. 12, 2016, in New York.PlayKena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images
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President-elect Donald Trump made official today that he intends to nominate Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, a retired Navy SEAL, for the Cabinet position of secretary of the interior.

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"He has built one of the strongest track records on championing regulatory relief, forest management, responsible energy development and public land issues," Trump said in a statement today. "As a former Navy SEAL, he has incredible leadership skills and an attitude of doing whatever it takes to win. America is the most beautiful country in the world, and he is going to help keep it that way with smart management of our federal lands."

Trump added that "my administration's goal is to repeal bad regulations and use our natural resources to create jobs and wealth for the American people, and Ryan will explore every possibility for how we can safely and responsibly do that."

Zinke said in the statement that he was "honored and humbled" to be chosen. "I will work tirelessly to ensure our public lands are managed and preserved in a way that benefits everyone for generations to come," he said. "Most important, our sovereign Indian nations and territories must have the respect and freedom they deserve."

Zinke, 55, is the sole Montana representative in the U.S. House. First elected in 2014 and re-elected last month, he serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources.

He was an original co-sponsor of legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which President Barack Obama vetoed last year. Zinke has been an advocate for the Montana coal industry and has been critical of the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon pollution from power plants but, Zinke argues, kills jobs and raises costs for Montanans.

Trump and Zinke met at Trump Tower in New York on Monday. ABC News reported Wednesday that Donald Trump Jr. had a hand in the selection of Zinke for interior secretary.

Senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Fox News on Tuesday night that Trump offered the position to Zinke that day. "Today the president-elect offered the spot to Congressman Zinke," she said. "It was a very competitive process and wonderful candidates."

The Department of the Interior is charged with protecting federal land, including natural resources and national parks and wildlife refuges. If confirmed by the Senate, Zinke will be the first interior secretary from Montana.

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