Montana’s not-so-favorite son, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has been in the news a lot lately for dubious reasons: allowing coal mining on public lands; cutting down the areas of certain national monuments; lifting the restrictions on development and fracking on federal property, and opening up large areas of both American coasts (except around Mar-a-Lago) to offshore oil and gas drilling.

Journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert is a commentator on environmentalism for the New Yorker magazine. In the Jan. 22 issue of the New Yorker, she observes that Zinke is, in many ways, a typical Trump cabinet appointee. He and others demonstrate a total lack of interest and concern for the public interest.

Kolbert notes that nearly all of Trump’s cabinet members have shown disdain for the regulatory processes they’re charged with supervising. She notes that when it comes to conflict of interest, these cabinet folks, like Zinke, seem to be unconflicted.

Zinke’s travel expenses are currently under federal investigation because of a charter flight he took from Las Vegas to Kalispell last year while on “official business.” He made similar questionable trips while he was on active duty in the Navy. This contributed to his being passed over for promotion to captain and subsequently taking early retirement from the U.S. Navy.

Ryan Zinke has proven himself to be an embarrassment to the state of Montana and should ride off on his rental horse and oversize Stetson to his real home in the Santa Barbara area, not Whitefish.

I find it fascinating that he was found undeserving to be promoted to captain in the Navy but worthy to serve as a member of Congress and secretary of the Interior. He fits in quite well with the bar set by the current administration.

Jim Hamilton of Florence is a veteran and retired colonel with 30 years of military service and is a member of the Western Montana Military Officers Association, of which Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is an associate member. Hamilton has a master's degree in zoology and volunteered at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge and Teller Wildlife Refuge for several years.

The views expressed in this opinion are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the organizations listed.


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