Montana's only House lawmaker is Donald Trump's choice for interior secretary, transition team officials tell news outlets including Reuters and the Wall Street Journal. Ryan Zinke, a 55-year-old former Navy SEAL Team 6 commander, was first elected to Congress in 2014 and sits on the House Natural Resources Committee. The Journal reports that if the Senate confirms Zinke, he's expected to roll back President Obama's environmental policies and open up more federal lands and waters to oil and gas development, though unlike many Republicans, he shares Trump's view that federal lands should remain federally owned instead of being turned over to the states. Earlier this week, transition team spokesman Jason Miller praised Zinke as "a strong advocate for American energy independence."
"I'm very pleased to see that it's a Westerner and even more pleased to see that it's a Montanan," US Sen. Steve Daines, a fellow Montana Republican, tells the Billings Gazette. "I gave [a] strong opinion to the Trump administration, the transition team, that this needs to be a Westerner. And by Westerner, that doesn't mean Midwestern," Daines says. "I'm talking about the West, someone who understands our way of life, understands the importance of our public lands." The AP reports that Zinke has described climate change as "unsettled science," but that he has also supported an energy strategy that includes wind and solar power. (In 2012, Zinke founded an anti-Obama super PAC.)