On the morning President-elect Donald Trump named Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana to be her successor, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in Austin that she couldn’t yet assess how he will handle the job.
“We haven’t worked close enough together where I could weigh in on that,” Jewell said at the American YouthWorks offices in South Austin. “I will be reaching out to him to congratulate him and offer my services.”
But she praised Zinke for supporting the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which assists state and local governments in purchasing lands for public use and is fiercely defended by conservationists.
“He’s been supportive of something we’ve pushed hard for, which is permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has helped protect many, many lands for public use from local cities to national parks,” she said.
Jewell, a former CEO of retailer REI, said the fact that Zinke comes from a Western state will be “helpful” for him in leading the Department of the Interior, which oversees federally owned land and includes the National Park Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“He’s from the state of Montana. It’s a state that has a number of good-sized tribal communities, and so that’s a big part of what Interior does,” she said.
After it was reported earlier this week that Trump was considering Zinke for interior secretary, environmentalists criticized the choice, noting his mixed record on public land management issues. He has criticized the Obama administration’s efforts to fight climate change, which include assessing projects on federal lands for their impact on global warming. The League of Conservation Voters has given him a 3 percent rating for his voting record in Congress.
Jewell was in Austin to unveil $350,000 in grant money raised from corporate donors that will go to employing young people and veterans to work on conservation projects. The Texas Conservation Corps will receive $39,000 for work at Big Bend National Park.