Ryan Zinke

Ryan Zinke


  • M.S. Global Leadership,  University of San Diego (2003). [1]
  • M.B.A., National University (1991). [1]
  • B.S. Geology, University of Oregon (1984). [2]


Ryan Zinke was the 52nd Secretary of the Interior of the United States, nominated by Donald Trump and sworn in on March 1, 2017. Zinke announced his resignation on December 15, 2018, and would leave the administration at the end of the year. [2], [34]

Zinke was formerly a Montana Senator, elected to Senate in 2008 and serving from 2009 to 2011. He served on the Senate Finance and Claims Committee, chaired the Senate Education Committee, and also served on the House Armed Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committees. [3]

Zinke joined the elite Navy SEALs in 1986, retiring as a commander in 2008. He was named acting commander of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Arabian Peninsula in 2004, where he led Special Operations personnel in Iraq. [1]

Zinke has a history of opposing environmental groups, maintaining a lifetime score of 4% with the Leage of Conservation Voters. Zinke regularly votes against environmentalists on issues such as coal extraction, oil and gas drilling. He has also been a longtime advocate of public access to federal lands. [4], [5]

Before his election to congress, Zinke worked as a board member and consultant to Save the World Air, now QS Energy Inc., a company with a system to increase the flow of oil in pipelines. According to Bloomberg, in 2017 the group had a stock price of 8 cents and a deficit of more than $100 million. SEC filings showed that Zinke was payed $5,000 a month to arrange meetings with state officials. He dropped all ties with the company after he was elected to Congress. [6]

Special Operations for America (SOFA)

Zinke formed the super PAC Special Operations for America in order to help defeat President Obama in the 2012 election. After Zinke stepped down from the group to announce his candidacy, the PAC became the biggest funder of his campaign, an arrangement the Los Angeles Times described as an example of an issue “widely criticized as a loophole in campaign finance law.” [7]

In 2014, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed a joint complaint with the Federal Election Commission against the Super PAC and its coordination with Zinke’s campaign. [8]

“What’s interesting about the Zinke and SOFA arrangement was that the Zinke founded the group, raised money for the group, spent some money, resigned, hired his successor — the fundraiser for the group — and then announced his candidacy,” Brendan Fischer, Associated Council at the Campaign Legal Center said. [8]

Stance on Climate Change

May 6, 2015

Ryan Zinke discussed his views on climate change at Simms Fishing Products in Bozeman, Montana, reported the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Listen to the audio below. [9]

“This is where I sit on climate change. I think the best article was on the Wall Street Journal a few months ago […] It was written by a former Obama undersecretary of Energy. I think, without question, the climate’s changing. It has always changed, but it is changing. [9]

“If you go up to Glacier Park, you have your lunch along the glaciers, you’ll see the glacier recede while you eat lunch. So, you know, I have seen the change in my lifetime.” [9]

”[…] the degree of what that influence is—Hurricane Sandy, the President would say Hurricane Sandy is from global warming. That is not based on fact— It’s not based on fact that we’ve had 16 years of the highest temperatures. That’s not fact either.” [9]

“The fact of the matter is the last sixteen years doesn’t fit any model. Even though we continue to put a lot of CO2 in, it doesn’t fit the climate model. […] So something’s going on. And so I think we need to be prudent. It doesn’t mean I think we need to be destructive on fossil fuels.” [9]

January 20, 2015

Ryan Zinke reportedly told a PBS reporter that climate change was neither a national security threat, nor man-made. [10]

October 2014

Speaking in a televised debate on the Montana Television Network, Zinke cited a Wall Street Journal article suggesting that human influence on climate change is not settled: [11]

It’s not a hoax, but it’s not proven science either,” Zinke said. “But you don’t dismantle America’s power and energy on a maybe. We need to be energy independent first. We need to do it better, which we can, but it is not a settled science.” [11]

June 2014

The evidence strongly suggests that humans have had an influence on higher CO2. However, the evidence is equally as strong that there are other factors, such as rising ocean temperatures, that have a greater influence.” [12]


Ryan Zinke signed a letter describing global warming as a “a threat multiplier for instability in the most volatile regions of the world.” The letter also stated that “the clean energy and climate challenge is America’s new space race” and attributed “catastrophic” costs and “unprecedented economic consequences” as potential impacts of failing to act on climate change. [13]

Key Quotes

January 17, 2017

During his confirmation hearing, when asked whether he agreed with the President-elect’s view that climate change is a “hoax,” Zinke said that he believes the “climate is changing” and  added that “man has had an influence—I think that is undisputable as well,” reported Mother Jones. View video, via Politico, below. [15], [16]

“’I’m not a climate scientist expert, but I can tell you I will become a lot more familiar with it,” he added. “And it will be based on objective science.” [16]

January 30, 2014

According to Mother Jones, and first reported at the local news outlet Bigfork Eagle, Ryan Zinke described Hillary Clinton as the “anti-Christ” at a campaign stop in  Montana. “We need to focus on the real enemy,” he said of Clinton. [17], [18]


Regarding energy, Zinke said “I support increased coal production for electrical generation and believe it can and should be done with adequate environmental safeguards. I believe the use of alternate energy sources and clean coal is preferred over petroleum based fuels.” [14]

Key Deeds

June 24, 2019

Nearly 100 internal documents were leaked to Axios in 2019. As Axios reported, the documents identified a host of “red flags” about many individuals who would go on to work in the Trump administration, as well as others who were considered but failed to secure a position. [35]

Zinke was listed among the documents. Some notable samples from the internal documents, listed under a heading titled “Red Flags,” below:

Zinke Said That Both Clinton And Trump Are ‘Fundamentally Flawed,’ Adding ‘You Can’t Defend Trump. He’s Un-Defendable.’”

While Running For Congress In 2014, Zinke Called Hillary Clinton The ‘Anti-Christ,’ Referring To Her As ‘The Real Enemy.’”

Retired Navy SEAL Captain Larry Bailey, The Former Commanding Officer Of The Facility Where Zinke Received His Early SEAL Training, Publicly Accused Zinke Of Misusing U.S. Navy Travel Funds For Personal Travel.” [35]

December 15, 2018

Ryan Zinke announced his resignation as Interior Secretary and that he would leave the administration at the end of the year. The Washington Post reported Zinke blamed “vicious and politically motivated attacks” for his resignation. His departure was set for January 2. [34]

In his resignation letter to President Donald Trump, Zinke wrote “vicious and politically motivated attacks” on him and his family had “created an unfortunate distraction” in fulfilling the mission of the agency. [34]

March 2018

Zinke attended the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston, where he declared that the Trump administration is “pro-energy across the board.” Bloomberg reported that Zinke advocated for a partnership with oil and gas companies: [30], [31]

“Interior should not be in the business of being an adversary. We should be in the business of being a partner,” Zinke said to the audience, which included leaders of energy companies and oil-producing countries. [30], [31]

While Zinke admitted that “certainly oil and gas and coal have a consequence on carbon,” he went on to criticize wind turbines: 30]

“We probably chop us as many as 750,000 birds a year with wind, and the carbon footprint on wind is significant,” Zinke said. 30]

Time magazine noted that the carbon footprint for wind energy is significantly lower than electricity generated with coal or natural gas: [32] 

“Spread out over the life cycle of a typical turbine, scientists estimate that the typical wind plant generates between .02 and .04 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. Even at the high end, that’s less than 3 percent of the emissions from coal-generated electricity and less than 7 percent of the emissions from natural gas-generated electricity.” [32] 

Axios noted that, with regards to bird deaths by wind turbines, “Zinke is exaggerating the figure beyond virtually all published estimates,” and that “turbines are a drop in the bucket when it comes to the human-related causes of bird deaths.” [33]

March 3, 2017

On his first day in office, Ryan Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3346 which revoked the ban on lead ammunition and fish tackle on federal lands. The ban had been introduced on the last full day of the Obama administration. [19], [20]

The revoked order would have stopped the needless, incidental poisoning of wild animals by toxic lead ammunition and fishing tackle on more than 150 million acres managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States told HuffPost. [21]

The Center for Biological Diversity notes that as many as 20 million birds and other animals die yearly from lead poisoning. Lead ammunition can also pose risks to humans, with particles of lead entering the meat of animals killed by lead shot. [22]

October 3 – 4, 2017

Zinke was scheduled to speak at the 2017 board meeting of the National Mining Association (NMA). According to The Intercept, and E&E News the meeting would take place at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. and feature some of the largest coal and mining companies in the country. [27], [28], [29]

Rooms for the days scheduled cost approximately $800 per night. Election law expert Brendan Fischer commented that, because Trump had refused to divest from the Trump Organization, “money spent at the president’s D.C. hotel will make it into the president’s pocket.” [28]

The National Mining Association or any other lobbying group has likely concluded that spending money at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. is a solid way of currying favor with the administration — and that spending money anywhere else runs the risk of offending our very sensitive president,” he added. [28]

According to the event invitation, “The evening reception on the rooftop will be the first reception since the 2016 elections and will provide an excellent opportunity to meet the new members of Congress, build on our relationships, and share our perspectives with our guests from Congress and federal agencies.” [28]

January 17, 2017 

Zinke testified before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee (see C-SPAN video part 1 and part 2).

Part 1

Part 2

December 13, 2016

The Washington Post reported that Zinke had been chosen by then-President-elect-Donald Trump as secretary for the Department of Interior position. [5]

Several environmental groups spoke out against Trump’s choice of Zinke. “Zinke embodies the worst kind of magical thinking in Congress: that government welfare handouts can save dying coal companies and crumbling oil and gas giants,” Diana Best of Greenpeace said. [5]

According to Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, Zinke’s career “has been substantially devoted to attacking endangered species and the Endangered Species Act.” National Parks Conservation’s president, Theresa Pierno, said he “has repeatedly voted to block efforts to designate new national parks that would diversify the National Park System.” [5]


Social Media


Ryan Zinke is co-author of American Commander: Serving a Country Worth Fighting For and Training the Brave Soldiers Who Lead the Way. According to a search of Google Scholar, he does not appear to have published any articles in scientific areas. [25], [26]


  1. Smita Nordwall. “Who is Ryan Zinke?VOA News, December 15, 2016. Archived June 10, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/lJuFr
  2. Secretary Ryan Zinke,” U.S. Department of the Interior. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/3Cuko
  3. Congressional Meet and Greet – Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT),” K&L Gates, February 12, 2014. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/gj5EG
  4. National Environmental Scorecard,” League of Conservation Voters. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/Yh7ox
  5. Juliet Eilperin. “Trump taps Montana congressman Ryan Zinke as interior secretary,” The Washington Post, December 13, 2016. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/hZYhb
  6. Ari Natter. “Trump’s Interior Pick Consulted for Energy Company,” Bloomberg, January 17, 2017. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/6JMgL
  7. Does being a veteran help candidates? A Montana politician hopes so,” Los Angeles Times, October 24, 2014. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/145vw
  8. Soo Rin Kim. “Zinke’s nomination could bring questions about super PAC ties,” OpenSecrets.org, December 14, 2016. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/1yAef
  9. Troy Carter. “Audio: Rep. Ryan Zinke talks about his views on climate change,” Bozeman Daily Chronicle, May 6, 2015. Archived .mp3 on file at DeSmog.
  10. Shields and Brooks on Sen. Joni Ernst’s response to the 2015 State of the Union,” PBS Newshour, January 20, 2015. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/50bSh
  11. Charles S. Johnson. “Lewis, Zinke debate federal budget, health care, global warming,” Billings Gazette, October 4, 2014. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/Si6VD
  12. Matthew Brown and Lisa Baumann. “Montana’s U.S. House candidates’ energy plans reveal contrasts,” Missoulian, August 3, 2014. Archived June 10, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/KXFJ7
  13. “Dear President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Representative Boehner, Leader Reid, Senator McConnell, and all members of the 111th Congress” (PDF), Coalition of Legislators for Energy Action Now, March 11, 2010. Retrieved from IntelligentDiscontent.com.
  14. Ryan Zinke in 2008 Political Courage Test,” OnTheIssues. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/IihLr
  15. Rebecca Leber. “The GOP’s Favorite Climate Excuse Makes a Comeback in the Trump Administration,” Mother Jones, January 17, 2017. Archived January 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/58FFU
  16. Eric Wolff and Esther Whieldon. “Interior pick Zinke on climate change: ‘I don’t believe it’s a hoax‘,” Politico, January 17, 2017. Archived June 10, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/3SP3p
  17. Molly Redden. “Meet the GOP Congressional Candidate Who Called Hillary Clinton the ‘Antichrist’,” Mother Jones, February 4, 2014. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/cp3Fj
  18. Caleb Soptelean. “Ryan Zinke campaigns in Bigfork, says Hillary Clinton is the ‘anti-Christ’, ” Bigfork Eagle, January 30, 2014. Retrieved from Northwest Montana News Source. Archivd February 5, 2016. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/6Bis8
  19. Lead shot OK‘d for federal lands: what does that mean for conservation? The Christian Science Monitor, March 3, 2017. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/jUlV8
  20. Associated Press. “New Interior Secretary Zinke reverses lead-ammunition ban,” Missoulian, March 2, 2017. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/mJBTR
  21. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Brings Back Lead Ammo In Parks And Refuges,” HuffPost, March 2, 2017. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/bTyn2
  22. GET THE LEAD OUT,” Center for Biological Diversity. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/OVeFG
  23. About,” Special Operations for America. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/rZnv8
  24. Charles S. Johnson. “U.S. House candidate Zinke amasses more wealth than Lewis,” Missoulian, July 16, 2014. Archived June 9, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/fZfzn
  25. Ryan Zinke,” GoodReads. Archived June 10, 2017. Archive.is URLhttps://archive.is/S4Tyx
  26. Google Scholar search for author “Ryan Zinke.” Performed June 10, 2017.
  27. Jane Meyer. “A Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses Faces Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity,” The New Yorker, December 21, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/npnGL
  28. Lee Fang and Nick Surgey. “AFTER MASSIVE GIVEAWAYS TO INDUSTRY, MINING EXECUTIVES WILL SPEND BIG AT TRUMP’S D.C. HOTEL,” The Intercept, September 14, 2017. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/crPMu
  29. Dylan Brown. “NMA to host board meeting at Trump hotel — report,” E&E News, September 15, 2017.
  30. Ryan Zinke Blames Wind Turbines for Contributing to Global Warming,” EcoWatch, March 8, 2018. Archived March 9, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/ZUBSE
  31. Zinke Says Interior Department Should Be a Partner With Oil Companies,” Bloomberg, March 6, 2018.  Archived March 9, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/Nw9xX
  32. Trump’s Interior Secretary Claimed Wind Power Leads to Global Warming. His Numbers Are Wrong,” Time, March 6, 2018. Archived March 9, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/pwaOU
  33. Fact-checking Zinke’s claim that wind turbines kill 750,000 birds a year,“ Axios, March 7, 2018. Archived March 9, 2018. Archive.is URL: https://archive.is/xuxx1
  34. Sophie Tatum, Lauren Fox, and Gregory Wallace. “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to leave Trump administration at end of the year,” CNN, December 16, 2018. Archived December 17, 2018. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/TOz1X
  35. Full list: The leaked Trump transition vetting documents,” Axios, June 24, 2019. Archived June 24, 2019. Archive.is URL: http://archive.is/gm9i7

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