The United States Senate today (March 1) confirmed U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., as the nation’s 52nd secretary of the interior by a 68-31 vote of bipartisan support. His confirmation drew praise from the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable (ORIR), which strongly backed his nomination.
According to a press release, Rep. Zinke called himself “an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt” during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 17. He said that the former president “had it right” when he placed millions of acres of federal lands under federal protection. He also directly linked the availability of those federal lands to the enjoyment of outdoor recreation.
“Today, much of those lands provide Americans the opportunity to hike, fish, camp, recreate and enjoy the great outdoors,” he said. The committee approved Rep. Zinke’s nomination Jan. 31 with bipartisan support by a vote of 16-6.
As a lifelong outdoor enthusiast, hunter and angler, Zinke understands the importance of access to and funding for America’s public lands and waters, and the outdoor industry’s critical economic impact. He was a co-sponsor of the recently enacted Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact (REC) Act of 2016, which requires measurement of the economic impact of outdoor recreation and its role in the U.S. economy.
Zinke takes over a department that is responsible for 25% of the country’s surface area and exercises great influence on outdoor activities throughout the nation. The parks, refuges, trails, rivers and more that the department manages attract hundreds of millions of visits each year. Interior has an annual budget of $13 billion and administers the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Sport Fish and Boating Trust Fund, Pittman-Robertson Program and other key programs providing more than $1 billion annually in grants to assist outdoor recreation experiences. The land and water it manages provide the foundation for much of the $646 billion outdoor recreation industry that directly supports some 6.1 million jobs.
ORIR voiced its support for Secretary-designate Zinke on Jan. 13 in letters to Senate leaders Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., explaining the importance of Zinke’s confirmation and urging swift action on his nomination. Those letters can be read at www.rvia.org/ORIR.
ORIR leaders expressed immediate and enthusiastic support for the Senate’s confirmation vote.
“The RV industry congratulates Secretary Zinke on his confirmation as Secretary of Interior,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “Secretary Zinke understands the significance of the outdoor recreation economy and RVIA is committed to working in partnership with him to expand recreational access, address infrastructure needs, embrace public private partnerships, modernize federal campgrounds and create more jobs for American workers.”
“We look forward to working with new Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, who has a proven track record of commitment to our public lands and waters. We are excited to work with him and his team to advance outdoor recreation for our country, grow U.S. recreational jobs, and ensure robust public access and treasured experiences for boaters and anglers across the nation,” noted Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).
“The Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable thanks the Senate for its vote confirming Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Interior,” said Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC). “We are really looking forward to working with him and his team to advance the outdoor recreation sector, grow jobs in the U.S. and ensure that all Americans have access to healthy, active outdoor fun on their public lands and waters.”