Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, stating he was an “unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt,” and was committed to ensuring hunting access to public lands.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, along with the National Rifle Association, Boone and Crockett Club, The Mule Deer Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, offered support for Zinke’s nomination to be the 52nd Secretary of the Interior. That support was entered into the Senate record during the confirmation hearing.
Zinke told the committee he is “particularly concerned about the elitism of our traditional hunting.” He argued that public use of land doesn’t have to be an either-or decision. Public lands can be used for outdoor recreation and utilization of natural resources. He explained that restricting access to large swaths of land only denies the public ability to hunt and fish.
“I am particularly concerned about public access,” Zinke explained. “I am a hunter, a fisherman.”
Zinke reminded the Senate committee that public land belongs to all Americans. His concerns for the ability use those lands for outdoor recreation weren’t limited to just this generation but the next who see the physical signs as barriers that keep them from hunting. That trend, he argued, would make hunting “an elite sport.”
Zinke explained he would usher in a new spirit of cooperation between federal and local governments as his first priority. He said that too often, decisions of the use of federal lands were being made without consideration to local concerns.
“The first is to restore trust and working with rather than against local communities and states,” Zinke said. “I fully recognize that there is distrust, anger and even hatred against some federal management policies. Being a listener and a listening advocate rather than a deaf adversary is a good start.”
Zinke added that tackling the $12.5 billion maintenance backlog in national parks as needing immediate attention and empowering managers and rangers with flexibility and the right tools to make decisions in the field.
Zinke told the senator his focus would ensuring he is leading a department that is sustainable for the next 100 years. He recognized American’s passion for their public lands, outdoor recreation and the finite nature of the outdoors. The Department of the Interior, he said, needs to project what the next century of challenge will be and position itself as a relevant agency able to meet those future needs.
“They’re not making anymore land,” Zinke explained. “We need to — we need to make sure what we’re doing is appropriate. We need to make sure that clean air, clean water, those type of things. Again, so, my daughter’s children will look back and say we did it right. I think that has to be a goal that we all share.”