Rep. Ryan Zinke, the nominee to head the Interior Department, will cast himself Tuesday as a champion of the federal government expanding its reach over federal lands, in a move that could signal friction with his own GOP colleagues.
He also hinted, in testimony prepared for his confirmation hearing Tuesday afternoon, that President-elect Donald Trump’s promised infrastructure plans will include money to shore up the crown jewels of the national park system, many of which are crumbling under a $12 billion maintenance backlog.
Mr. Zinke will call himself an “unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt,” saying the former president “had it right” when he expanded the government’s reach to millions of acres of lands.
But he also gave a nod to Congress, saying lawmakers must be involved, and said he’ll work to include local communities in his decisions, rather than impose dictates on them.
“I fully recognize that there is distrust, anger, and even hatred against some federal management policies. Being a listening advocate rather than a deaf adversary is a good start,” he said.
That was an attack on President Obama, who has faced ferocious pushback from many local communities for some of his land decisions, including a move just weeks ago to declare a national monument in southeastern Utah, against the wishes of most local officials.
Republicans have bristled at Mr. Obama’s expansive use of the 1906 Antiquities Act, which allows the president to unilaterally declare national monuments, which imposes tight restrictions on uses such as grazing, drilling or mining.
Some land-rights advocates have said the Trump administration should roll back or even revoke some of the Obama monument declarations. Whether a monument can be revoked by a president is heatedly debated in legal circles.
Mr. Zinke, a Montana Republican who grew up near Glacier National Park, said he believes in what he called the “Pinchot model” of federal land management, referring to the head of the Forest Service under Roosevelt — “ using best practices, sustainable policies and objective science” to decide land use.