Mar 1, 2017, 12:14 PM ET

Ryan Zinke: Everything you need to know about the new interior secretary


Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and Montana congressman, was confirmed by the Senate today as interior secretary. Zinke is the first person from Montana to hold that Cabinet position.

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Here is everything you need to know about Zinke:

Name: Ryan Zinke (pronounced Zin-key)

Age: 55

Party: Republican

Education: Bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Oregon; MBA and M.S. from the University of San Diego.

Family: He met his wife, Lolita “Lola” Hand, when he was a Navy officer and she was worked as a public defender. They have two sons, Wolfgang Zinke and Konrad Zinke, and a daughter, Jennifer Detlefsen, who is a Navy diver and is married to a Navy SEAL. Ryan Zinke is a fifth-generation Montanan and grew up near Glacier National Park.

What he used to do: Zinke was the sole Montana representative in the U.S. House in his second term before he was tapped to be interior secretary. He served on the Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Natural Resources.

Zinke was a Navy SEAL from 1986 to 2008. He retired at the rank of commander and was awarded two Bronze Stars for combat missions in Iraq. He was the first Navy SEAL elected to the U.S. House, in 2014, and was in the Montana state Senate from 2009 to 2012, serving on the education and finance and claims committees.

He was also the CEO of business development company Continental Divide International for almost six years from 2008 to 2014.

His relationship with Trump:

Zinke endorsed Trump for president last May. In November his wife was appointed to Trump’s Veterans Administration landing team.

Zinke and Trump met in Trump Tower in New York on Dec. 12, 2016. Zinke said in a message to the Montana newspaper The Billing Gazette, “President-elect Donald Trump and I had a very positive meeting where we discussed a wide range of Montana priorities ... We are both very hopeful for the future.”

About his Senate confirmation hearing:

During his Senate confirmation hearing in January, Zinke was grilled by Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders on whether he believes in climate change.

“Climate is changing; man has had influence,” Zinke said, differing himself from Trump's position on climate change. “I don’t believe it’s a hoax…I believe we must be prudent.”

The former Montana congressman said he was "absolutely against the transfer or sale of public land."

He also said he would be open to reviewing and expanding oil drilling.

“The president-elect has said, we want to be energy independent. As a former Navy SEAL, I think I have been to 63 countries in my lifetime. I can guarantee you it is better to produce energy domestically under reasonable regulation, than watch it be produced overseas with no regulation," Zinke argued.

What you might not know about him:

Zinke was an All-Pac-10 lineman on the University of Oregon’s football team. He considered Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty among his friends — both of whom lost their lives in the 2012 Benghazi attack.

Zinke recently co-authored the book “American Commander: Serving a Country Worth Fighting For and Training the Brave Soldiers Who Lead the Way” with “American Sniper” author Scott McEwan.

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  • BigRead

    I can the oil derricks now at Yellowstone.

  • O_day

    Trump's pick of Zinke for Interior is a good one. It appears that he does not favor the sale of OUR public lands, but does care about it's continued stewardship for present a future generations. Kudos to Zinke and Trump. It appears like Trumps former military picks for his cabinet could be rock solid (Zinke, Mattis, Kelly).

  • desertdweller

    A couple of things I disagree with him is: Public lands are not being closed to public access. However, some are due to destruction by irresponsible ATV users, but hikers, campers, and others on foot are allowed, there are no gates on public land, if there's a gate it's because some private rancher thinks he owns public land for his grazing. He's a proponent of public lands, however he also favors energy development and is a member of the natural resources committee. Not a good combination with preserving public land. I'm not hopeful