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Trump’s Interior Pick Supports Federal Ownership Of Western Land

By Emma Colton

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of the interior opposes selling federally-controlled lands back to the states, placing him at odds with some of his Republicans colleagues on the issue.

Trump’s choice to run the Department of the Interior, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinkeopposes one of the Republican Party’s major planks: transferring public land ownership back to the states. In fact, Zinke resigned as a delegate to the Republican National Committee earlier this summer because of the GOP’s position on federal land ownership.

The Montana Republican pushed back against efforts by Utah Republican Sen. Rob Bishop, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, to transfer millions of acres of public land from the U.S. Forest Service to the state. Bishop’s committee oversees the Department of the Interior.

Conservation groups are concerned Zinke will fold under pressure and sell off public land, despite his public opposition to land transfers.

“Zinke must reassure the American people that he will stand up to members of his own party and never tolerate any attempts to hand over the ownership or management of American lands to state or private hands,” Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, said in a statement Tuesday.

Trump meanwhile intends to open public lands to oil and natural gas drilling, but he also believes the federal government needs to enter into shared governance with state governments in order to make sure federally controlled lands are regulated more efficiently.

Trump’s Republican primary opponents meanwhile were strident supporters of federal land divestitures

Sen. Ted Cruz, who ran against Trump during the Republican primaries, for instance, promised to sell federal lands back to western states like Nevada. Trump’s other opponents made similar promises at the time.

“If you trust me with your vote,” Cruz said in one of his campaign ads. “I will fight day and night to return full control of Nevada’s lands to its rightful owners, its citizens.”

The federal government currently controls 85 percent of the land in Nevada, including the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on the Colorado River, Great Basin National Park, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Basin and Range National Monument.

Zinke’s position on climate change could also propose a problem for the former Navy Seal commander.

He believes the Trump administration needs to carefully balance coal and natural gas production with that of preserving public lands. Climate change should also be factored into that balance, Zinke told reporters last year.

“You know, if you go up to Glacier Park and you have your lunch on one of the glaciers, you will see the glacier recede while you eat lunch. So you know I have seen the change in my lifetime,” he said.

Zinke’s office did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation questions in time for this article’s publication.

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