Former Navy Seal Zinke Said to Be Considered for Interior Chief

(Bloomberg) -- Representative Ryan Zinke, who just won a second term representing Montana in the U.S. House, is being considered by President-elect Donald Trump for Secretary of the Interior, according to two people familiar with the transition team’s deliberations.

Zinke, 55, a retired Navy SEAL who was awarded two Bronze Stars for combat missions in Iraq, was an early supporter of Trump and met with the president-elect Monday at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

"President-elect Donald Trump and I had a very positive meeting where we discussed a wide range of Montana priorities," Zinke said afterward in a statement to The Billings (Montana) Gazette. "We are both very hopeful for the future."

Two people familiar with the deliberations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said he is being considered for Interior Secretary.

Zinke’s campaign website mentions that he grew up "at the gateway to Glacier National Park," and that as a fifth-generation Montanan his "love and appreciation for Montana’s outdoor heritage began early and still continues to grow to this day."

Energy Independence

“Congressman Zinke is a strong advocate for American energy independence, and he supports an all-encompassing energy policy that includes renewables, fossil fuels and alternative energy," Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller told reporters before the meeting.

Zinke’s voting record in Congress has gained low ratings from environmental and conservation organizations since being sworn in to the House of Representatives on Jan. 6, 2015, the first Navy SEAL in the House.

The League of Conservation Voters gave Zinke a 3 percent score in the group’s 100-point National Environmental Scorecard, based on lawmakers’ votes on the organization’s top issues, including energy, climate change, public health, wildlife conservation and spending for environmental programs. The average score in the group’s ratings for all House members in 2015 was 41 percent.

Zinke has demonstrated a conservation mindset in the House, where he has repeatedly defended public lands. 

Zinke also has been involved in debates over policy affecting native Americans, which could be an asset at the Interior Department that that is home to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and oversees energy development on tribal lands. Zinke worked to get federal recognition for a tribe in Montana and supported making permanent a tax break for coal mined from native American reservations.