The US Senate approved Ryan Zinke, a former Republican congressman and ex-Navy SEAL, as President Donald Trump’s new secretary of the interior.
The 68-31 vote in his favour reflects the fact that his nomination had not generated as much controversy or rejection by upper house Democrats as other people tapped by Trump to comprise his Cabinet, Efe news agency reported.
In all, 17 Democratic senators voted in favor of Zinke, including the former Democratic vice presidential candidate, Tim Kaine.
The Department of the Interior is in charge of managing federal lands and national parks, most of them located in the western US, as well as overseeing the reservations of Native Americans.
During his confirmation hearings, Zinke acknowledged that there is evidence of climate change, but he expressed his doubts regarding the role in that process played by human activity.
In addition, the former Montana congressman defended the “multiple use” of federal lands that would allow recreational use to be combined with mining and energy exploitation.
He told senators that multiple use of such lands means “sustainability” and implies that there need be no conflict between recreation use of federal lands and the exploitation of those lands for industrial purposes.
Senate Energy Committee chairman Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, called Zinke’s nomination “solid” and emphasized the new secretary’s passion for hunting and fishing.
After leaving the Navy, Zinke embarked on a political career first as Montana senator in 2008 and later as congressman for the state’s only House district.
Meanwhile, ecological groups on Wednesday criticized Zinke’s confirmation, saying that he poses a threat to environmental conversation.
Sierra Club chief Michael Brune said in a statement that “the confirmation of Rep. Zinke as Interior Secretary jeopardises the future of our great outdoors, and the people, wildlife, and economies that depend on them.
“The majority of Americans want to see our public lands protected for future generations to enjoy, not sold off or plundered for the financial benefit of the few. Yet as a Congressman, Zinke repeatedly sold out to corporate polluters,” Brune added.