President Donald Trump, center, Vice President Mike Pence, left, escorted by Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, right, visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Yesterday afternoon, President Trump announced his intention to nominate Acting Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, to succeed former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Bernhardt served as Zinke’s Deputy prior to becoming Acting Secretary. He also worked in the Solicitor role between 2001 to 2009. Prior to working at DOI, Bernhardt served on the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. He is an avid angler and hunter.
Zinke resigned in December after mounting calls for him to step down by radical environmentalists over his agenda and controversy over frivolous spending.
Trump tweeted the news:
His nomination was praised by firearms and conservation groups:
“NSSF applauds President Donald J. Trump on his nomination of David Bernhardt to be Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Today’s nomination is a clear win for America’s hunters and sportsmen and women,” said Lawrence G. Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) senior vice president for government and public affairs. “Mr. Bernhardt’s years of success in wildlife conservation and management issues, first as Solicitor General of Interior and later as Deputy Secretary and then Acting Secretary, provides him with the experience the department deserves and the proven leadership that appreciates the contributions of recreational hunting and sport shooting. NSSF urges the Senate to swiftly confirm the nominee.”
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP)’s president praised Bernhardt in a statement that calls him “accessible, fair, and true to his word.” The statement also added, “He has been a steady hand during challenging times at the Department and he has worked to strengthen relationships with the states and the nation’s sportsmen and women.”
House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Republican Rob Bishop (R-UT). He said, “It’s a brilliant move. No one is more experienced and I look forward to working with him.”
The Interior Secretary nominee will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which just became more Republican. He will face resistance from Senate Democrats — including Kamala Harris — who bemoan him for having worked in the oil and gas industry. Bernhardt was previously confirmed by a 53-43 vote in the U.S. Senate.
So what? A lot of people —including sportsmen and women— have worked in oil, gas, and the energy sector. That doesn’t mean he’s in favor of developing on every parcel of public land. Like his predecessor Zinke, Bernhardt is a believer of true conservation that welcomes sustainable, well-managed, mixed use of public lands.
Critics of Bernhardt — much like Zinke’s critics — comprise of those who oppose hunting, mixed use of public lands, and support preservationist attitudes of natural resources management. They will resist any effort on partisan lines.
Not surprisingly, radical environmentalist groups expressed their discontent with Bernhardt’s nomination to the top Interior post:
Of course, several 2020 Democrat contenders weighed in too:
Bernhardt’s elevation to the top Interior post is eerily reminiscent of Andrew Wheeler’s rise to the top of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He succeeded his boss, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, last summer.
What should we expect under a Bernhardt Interior Department?
There should be more secretarial orders expanding hunting and fishing opportunities on public lands—specifically U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) public lands like national wildlife refuges.
Outdoor consumers can expect further promotion gun safety efforts like National Shooting Sports Month and efforts like National Go Fishing Day, while also addressing the lagging hunting participation numbers.
Bernhardt is expected to deal with challenges relating to the sage grouse and will wholly support reforms to the Endangered Species Act (ESA)—which isn’t regularly updated to reflect true conservation statuses of threatened or endangered species.
The Resurgent will monitor updates from the nomination process.
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