WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies and vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, released the following statement on the confirmation of Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) to serve as Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Udall joined the Senate in voting 68-31 to confirm Zinke.
“The Department of the Interior is an agency of enormous significance to the lives of New Mexicans, Native Americans, and people across the West and the nation. I discussed a variety of New Mexican, Tribal, and Western issues with Congressman Zinke, a fellow Westerner, during the confirmation process to determine his viewpoints and priorities as a potential Interior Secretary. Congressman Zinke’s hearing testimony and answers to my many questions give me a level of confidence that he understands the serious and essential responsibilities of the Secretary of the Interior to defend our precious public lands and uphold the Tribal trust responsibility. However, there are also issues where we have long-standing differences, and I will not hesitate to stand up for what is right to protect our public lands, waters, and treasured landscapes for future generations. Now that he has been confirmed, I will work steadfastly to hold Congressman Zinke accountable.
“As the vice chairman of Senate Indian Affairs Committee and a representative of 23 tribes and pueblos in New Mexico, I am already deeply concerned by the Trump administration’s disrespectful and rash early actions on Tribal issues, including its decision to move forward with construction on the current route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. I have impressed upon Congressman Zinke that he must work to help President Trump understand our trust and treaty obligations to Tribes and the need for meaningful consultation on any issue that affects Native American lands and culture, including the ongoing process to determine a Resource Management Plan in the greater Chaco Canyon area. I was encouraged by Congressman Zinke’s promise to be a ‘strong advocate’ for Native Americans, and I intend to hold him to that promise.”