Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Meet the new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the horse he rode in on

WASHINGTON — Arriving on horseback Thursday, newly minted Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke pledged he would devote more resources to national parks, boost the morale of department employees and bolster the sovereignty of American Indian tribes.

Zinke — who was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday by a 68 to 31 vote — rode with a mounted police escort to the Interior Department's downtown headquarters on Tonto, an Irish sport horse. The horse, a bay roan gelding standing just over 17 hands tall, is normally kept in stables on the National Mall and is owned by the U.S. Park Police.

A fifth-generation Montanan, Zinke also sent an email to the department's 70,000 employees telling them that he had spent years working on public lands issues and was dedicated to protecting America's natural heritage.

"I approach this job in the same way that Boy Scouts taught me so long ago: leave the campsite in better condition than I found it," he wrote in a missive that was later posted on Medium. "I'm an unapologetic admirer and disciple of Teddy Roosevelt. I believe in traditional mixed use 'conservation ethics' doctrine laid out by (Gifford) Pinchot, but realize that there are special places where man is more an observer than a participant, as outlined by (John) Muir."

An employee with the Office of Indian Affairs from Montana's Northern Cheyenne tribe played a veterans honor song on a hand drum as Zinke approached the department in Washington, while 350 employees waited outside to greet him. In his email, Zinke noted that he was "proud to be an adopted member of the Assiniboine-Sioux from Northeast Montana," and that his commitment to respecting tribal sovereignty and the rights of U.S. territories "is not lip service."

Zinke is an avid outdoorsman, and the department's homepage already boasts a large photo of him fly-fishing. His Medium post included a photo of him standing outside Glacier National Park with his wife, Lola. On Thursday he wrote about one of his favorite memories hiking on public lands. He recalled that he suffered a painful mishap while trying to impress his future wife near the military base in California where he was training to become a Navy SEAL.

"I was trying to show off some rock climbing skills I had just picked up training with the SEAL teams, but lost my hold and I broke my ankle," he wrote. "I did what any guy would do in my situation: I stood up and kept on hiking, surely messing up my ankle a bit more. Lola and I finished the hike and I didn't collapse in pain, but the bigger accomplishment was I won Lola's heart."

While Zinke received much more bipartisan support than most of President Donald Trump's other Cabinet nominees, he also faces challenges mediating between some of Interior's traditional supporters and conservative Republicans eager to make changes to how public lands are managed. Utah Republicans, for example, have asked Trump to unilaterally revoke national monument status for Bears Ears, a tribal site in southeastern Utah that President Barack Obama designated less than a month before leaving office.

Zinke has said that reducing the $12.5 billion backlog in maintenance and operations for national parks is one of his and the president's top priorities. But it's unclear how much money the administration can devote to the task and other Interior Department programs, given Trump's push to boost military funding while cutting other discretionary spending. Interior may face a budget trim of 10 percent to 12 percent, according to individuals briefed on the White House plans. These individuals asked for anonymity because no final funding decision had been made.

Zinke made it clear in his note that he was adamantly opposed to selling off federal lands, as some congressional Republicans had proposed, but he wanted to give Interior employees more flexibility in how they operate.

"We serve the people, not the other way around," he wrote. "Washington has too much power. I think we need to return it to the front lines."

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke arrives Thursday for his first day of work at the Interior Department in Washington aboard Tonto, an 17-year-old Irish sport horse.  [Interior Department via AP]

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke arrives Thursday for his first day of work at the Interior Department in Washington aboard Tonto, an 17-year-old Irish sport horse. [Interior Department via AP]

Meet the new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the horse he rode in on 03/02/17 [Last modified: Thursday, March 2, 2017 4:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lightning takes defenseman Cal Foote with top pick in draft

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Former Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote said his son Cal lived in the locker room.

    Cal Foote, second from left, is welcomed to the Lightning by GM Steve Yzerman, far left.
  2. It's Rays' turn to pound Orioles pitching (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG - Ah, the fantastic four.

    The Rays smashed the reeling Orioles 15-5 on Friday, scoring a season-high in runs, to climb four games above .500 for the first time since July 1, 2015.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria scores on a triple by Logan Morrison during the first inning against the Orioles.
  3. Lightning picks defenseman Cal Foote

    Blogs

    Cal Foote is the son of former Avs defenseman Adam Foote.
  4. Kids today: They don't work summer jobs the way they used to

    Business

    WASHINGTON — It was at Oregon's Timberline Lodge, later known as a setting in the horror movie The Shining, where Patrick Doyle earned his first real paycheck.

    Teens Ben Testa, from left, Hannah Waring and Abby McDonough, and Wegmeyer Farms owner Tyler Wegmeyer walk the strawberry rows at the Hamilton, Va., farm in late May.
  5. Jeb Bush back in the hunt for the Marlins, now opposing Derek Jeter

    Blogs

    Associated Press:

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has switched sides in pursuit of the Miami Marlins, and he’s trying to beat out former teammate Derek Jeter.