US & Canada

Trump picks ex-Navy Seal Ryan Zinke as interior secretary

US Representative at large from Montana Ryan Zinke Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Zinke is a first-term Republican congressman from Montana

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Congressman Ryan Zinke to lead the Department of the Interior.

The 55-year-old Montana Republican will oversee more than 20% of US federal land, including national parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite.

Mr Zinke, a first-term lawmaker, was an early Trump supporter who endorsed the New York property mogul in May.

"America is the most beautiful country in the world and he is going to help keep it that way," Mr Trump said.

"As a former Navy SEAL, he has incredible leadership skills and an attitude of doing whatever it takes to win", Mr Trump continued.

He added that "he has built one of the strongest track records on championing regulatory relief, forest management, responsible energy development and public land issues".

Mr Zinke is the fourth military veteran to receive a post in Mr Trump's cabinet. He spent 23 years in the Navy where he served in Kosovo, Iraq and elsewhere.

Retired US Army three-star Lt Gen Michael Flynn is national security adviser, retired General James Mattis has been picked to lead the Defence Department and John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, was selected to run Homeland Security.

In a statement released by the Trump transition team, Mr Zinke said: "As someone who grew up in a logging and rail town and hiking in Glacier National Park, I am honored and humbled to be asked to serve Montana and America as Secretary of Interior.

"I look forward to making the Department of Interior and America great again. May God bless Montana, God bless America and God bless the troops who defend her."

As a member of the House of Representatives subcommittee on natural resources, Mr Zinke voted for legislation that would soften environmental protections on public land.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Yellowstone was created as America's first national park

It is unclear if he supports opening up federal lands to more drilling and mining, which Mr Trump has pledged to do in his administration.

But Mr Zinke has bucked his party on the issue of privatisation or transfer of public lands to states, which he believes should remain under federal control.

He resigned as a delegate to the Republican nominating convention in July after the party platform called for giving states control over federal lands.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The National Park Service, which Zinke will lead, has been dubbed 'America's best idea'.

Public land makes up more than 30% of the state of Montana, according to the Montana Wilderness Association.

Mr Zinke shares that sentiment with the president-elect, who also said he thinks the government should retain ownership of public lands.

The Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group, slammed the nomination, saying "in nominating Representative Zinke, President-elect Trump has once again chosen someone unsuited for the job at hand".

"Zinke is firmly in the past, clinging to plans to mine, drill and log public lands to benefit corporate polluters, supporting dangerous and dirty projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, and opposing efforts to clean up our air," the group wrote, urging senators to oppose the nomination.

The Department of the Interior, which employs more than 70,000 people, also manages the Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal policy.

The department assisted in President Barack Obama's push to tackle climate change by curbing fossil fuel development in some areas.