Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke will step down from his post at the end of the year, according to President Donald Trump, who tweeted the announcement this morning.
The announcement comes after several high-profile departures from the Trump administration this year, including White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt.
Secretary of the Interior @RyanZinke will be leaving the Administration at the end of the year after having served for a period of almost two years. Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation.......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2018
.......The Trump Administration will be announcing the new Secretary of the Interior next week.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2018
Zinke’s departure has been rumored for weeks, with reports that he might end up with Fox News as a contributor (A Fox News spokesperson says that he has not been in contact with the network), or with a role in the energy industry. With the new Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives, Zinke has been under increased scrutiny, with Democratic lawmakers vowing to pursue ethics investigations into irregular private flights and potential violations of the Hatch Act. But despite those threats, Zinke remained in Trump’s cabinet, and was thanked for his service by the President this morning. Vox notes that Zinke’s tenure was “one of the more impactful” in Trump’s cabinet, and that his actions will “have lasting consequences for energy development and [the] environment.” Trump says that he will announce his replacement next week.
Trump selected Zinke — then the representative for Montana — in December 2016 to head up the department. As Interior Secretary, Zinke was responsible for overseeing the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Geological Survey, and the National Parks Service. Under his watch, Zinke oversaw efforts to shrink several national monuments in the interest of potential oil exploration in Utah, and rolled back Obama-era restrictions on lead ammunition in national parks, protections for endangered animals, and bans on importing elephant trophies into the US. He also recently blamed the massive California wildfires not on climate change, but on “extreme environmentalists.”
Update, December 16th, 2018 9:21AM ET: Updated with comment from Fox News, which denied that he had been in touch with the network for a contributor position.