March 1 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed Rep. Ryan Zinke as interior secretary by a 68-31 vote.
Seventeen Democrats in the Senate joined Republicans in voting to approve him.
Zinke, R-Mont., said during confirmation hearings that he agreed that the climate is changing, although the scope of involvement by humans is debatable, a position favored by several of President Donald Trump's nominees for Cabinet positions. Zinke clearly rejected, though, to a comment of Trump's that climate change is a hoax.
He also ruled out the sale of federal lands, but said he would review limits on oil and gas drilling in Alaska that were imposed by President Barack Obama's administration.
As interior secretary, Zinke, 55, a former Navy SEAL and fifth-generation Montanan, will oversee the agency in charge of one-fifth of the nation's land through bureaus dealing with national parks, wildlife refuges, hydroelectric dams, tribal lands and territory with resources, including oil. The position will require a careful balance between protection of land with Trump's stated eagerness to increase fossil fuel production, Politico reported Wednesday. It added that an end to the Interior Department's freeze on new coal leases is expected to be among Zinke's first acts: He supports additional oil and gas development on federal land, as well as additional offshore drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans.
Environmental groups have been critical of Zinke's past stances favoring fossil fuel development and opposing endangered species protections. However, he has identified himself as a Teddy Roosevelt Republican, believing that federal land should have multiple uses where appropriate, including for energy and mineral production.