10 Things You Need to Know About New Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

As published on the NRA Blog

Gun owners and outdoor enthusiasts received more good news about the direction of the country on March 1 as the Senate confirmed NRA-backed Ryan Zinke as the 52nd Secretary of the Interior in a bi-partisan vote of 68-31.


Nominated by President Donald J. Trump, Zinke’s confirmation signals an end of a hostile era towards American hunters and sportsmen, with a life-long outdoorsman leading the branch of the Federal government charged with regulating our country’s public lands.

The hunting and outdoors community applauded the confirmation of Ryan Zinke, excited that “one of them” will lead the way in advocating for their rights. For those unfamiliar with our new Interior Secretary, allow us to introduce a few facts about Mr. Zinke:

1. He is a career U.S. Navy SEAL

Zinke served as a U.S. Navy SEAL for 22 years, graduating from the Navy’s Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training class 136 in February of 1986. Notable positions include service with the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group, known as SEAL TEAM SIX, acting commander of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula, and the leader of the Naval Special Warfare Advanced Training Command. Zinke retired at the rank of commander (O-5), and received two Bronze Star medals for meritorious service in a combat zone during his career, among others.

2. He is a native of Montana

Zinke, who most recently represented Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives after his term as a member of the Montana Senate, was born in Bozeman and grew up in Whitefish, a picturesque resort town near Glacier National Park. It was life in the natural beauty of northern Montana that cultivated a love and appreciation for the outdoors in Zinke, and participation in outdoors traditions that made him understand how important it is to preserve the ways of life cherished by Americans for generations.


3. He played college football at the University of Oregon

A star athlete at Whitefish High School, Zinke earned a football scholarship to the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. While he was recruited as an outside linebacker, Zinke switched sides and played center for the Ducks for four years, graduating in 1984 with a B.S. in geology.

4. He owned his own businesses

Zinke founded Continental Divide International in 2005, a business consulting and property management company. Later in 2009, he formed another consulting company, On Point Montana. To avoid conflicts of interest once he entered the political arena, Zinke passed Continental Divide to his family, remaining solely in an advisory role.

5. He rode a horse to work on his first day as Interior Secretary

Zinke mounted a horse and plodded down C Street NW on Thursday, March 2, 2017, en route to his first day of work as the Secretary of the Interior. While the scene was a stark contrast to the modern bustle of surrounding downtown Washington D.C., it was a common sight during Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency as he was a noted rider and protector of horses, which makes complete sense considering…

6. He is a huge fan of Teddy Roosevelt

“I am an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt,” Zinke said during a nomination hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in January, where he evoked Roosevelt on 10 occasions. “I fully recognize and appreciate there are lands that deserve special recognition and are better managed under the John Muir model of wilderness, where man has a light touch and is an observer.” Zinke’s inspiration from and admiration of the roughneck president grew from his upbringing in Whitefish and time served in the Boy Scouts (Zinke was an Eagle Scout), where Roosevelt’s spirit of the outdoors, hunting, land access and conservation was a core theme.


7. He plans ‘bold’ restructuring of the DOI

Zinke said he plans to institute a “bold” restructuring of the 70,000-employee Department of the Interior, as well review measures instituted under former President Barack Obama that limited energy development on federal lands. His goal is to pass more authority to rangers and land managers outside the nation’s capital.

8. He took action for hunters and conservation on day one

Zinke backed up his claims to support American sportsmen, outdoorsmen and conservationists on his first day at Secretary of the Interior, signing two orders that promote hunting and increased public land access. Secretarial Order No. 3346 rolled back the Obama administration’s ban on lead ammunition and fishing tackle on lands, waters, and facilities administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Secretarial Order No. 3347 recognizes hunters and fishermen as the leaders in the nation’s conservation efforts, and requires a report of all steps taken to implement a directive issued by President George W. Bush as well as noting obstacles to full implementation. These reports would be issued to the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council and the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council to garner consensus recommendations on how to best implement the directive.

9. He now controls one-fifth of the United States

As Secretary of the Interior, Zinke is responsible for the oversight and administration of 500 million acres of U.S. land, which is about one-fifth of the country. His primary responsibility will be achieving balance of land conservation and usage, ensuring natural resource stewardship and protection while allowing American sportsmen and industry to responsible use and enjoy public lands. Zinke will oversee the nation’s 59 National Parks, as well as land management for 567 native tribes.

10. He is a National Rifle Association Life Member

Zinke wasn’t just backed by the NRA for his nomination as the Secretary of the Interior — he is a Life Member of the NRA! NRA Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Chris W. Cox said, “The NRA looks forward to working with Secretary Zinke in the pursuit of true conservation that respects the rights of America’s outdoorsmen and women.” It appears the future of the outdoors in America is in the right hands!


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