In a 68-31 vote yesterday, former U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke was confirmed as the 52nd Secretary of the Interior. Testifying before congress in January, the former Navy SEAL and self-proclaimed “Teddy Roosevelt Republican” is set to face a number of particularly vexing challenges as he begins his term.
After decades of underinvestment in America’s natural resources and strained relations over the management of the country’s 640 million acres of public lands, hunters, and anglers seem optimistic about Secretary Zinke and what he will mean to the industry as a whole.
Employing more than 6 million people across the country, the outdoor recreation economy is no joke, accounting for nearly $650 million worth of annual revenues.
Support from the outdoor industry for Zinke has been strong since his original nomination by President Trump in December. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, Boone and Crockett Club, The Mule Deer Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership were all in support of the nomination.
“Secretary Zinke is a true friend of American sportsmen who believes in the inestimable value of our public lands. His leadership at the Department of the Interior offers new opportunity to preserve and promote our hunting and related outdoor traditions. He is an American hero, a lifelong hunter, and angler, and a true conservationist in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt,” Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel said in a statement yesterday. “The Secretary of the Interior is arguably the nation’s single most important position with regard to the management of federal lands, wildlife habitat, and natural resources. Competing interests must be balanced with what will be in the best long-term interest of the nation. We look forward to standing with Secretary Zinke to help him achieve that mission.”
The praise was not strictly reserved for the hunting industry, key players from the camping and boating industries also voiced their support for the newly-confirmed Secretary of the Interior.
“The RV industry congratulates Secretary Zinke on his confirmation as Secretary of Interior,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) told BoatingIndustry.com. “Secretary Zinke understands the significance of the outdoor recreation economy and RVIA is committed to working in partnership with him to expand recreational access, address infrastructure needs, embrace public-private partnerships, modernize federal campgrounds and create more jobs for American workers.”
Despite the support of the tight-knit outdoor industry, there is little doubt that Zinke has his work cut out for him. He will undoubtedly face incredible pressure to expand energy development, particularly on publicly held lands and will be faced with the challenge of navigating other recent issues such as the recently rescinded Clean Water Rule and a growing list of endangered species.
Fittingly, as an admirer of the great Teddy Roosevelt, Zinke is now carrying what Roosevelt referred to as “the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us,” directly upon his shoulders. The support of the outdoor industry should prove to help him carry the load, so long as he continues to preserve our “most glorious heritage.”