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Trump To Nominate Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt To Lead Department


President Trump has announced on Twitter his choice to permanently lead the Department of the Interior. He plans to nominate acting Secretary David Bernhardt. Before coming to the department, Bernhardt had a long career as an energy lobbyist. NPR's Nathan Rott has more.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Quick context, the Interior Department manages roughly 1 out of every 5 acres in the United States. It's in charge of national parks, vast portions of the West and the areas off our coasts. It also manages the area and assets under those lands - namely oil, gas and mineral reserves.

President Trump has been consistent as a candidate and in the Oval Office about his want for energy dominance, a goal that has resulted in regulatory rollbacks on oil, gas and coal industries and a surge in lease sales for drilling on public lands.

Bernhardt has stood with the president the entire way. Here he is during a Heritage Foundation-sponsored talk on the Endangered Species Act last year.


DAVID BERNHARDT: ...The Interior, our goals are focused on the president's goals.

ROTT: A Colorado native, Bernhardt is well-versed in the Washington political world. He's held a number of roles at Interior during previous administrations. Critics point out he also lobbied the agency, representing oil, gas and agriculture groups raising concerns about conflicts of interest. Collin O'Mara is head of the National Wildlife Federation.

COLLIN O'MARA: He has been steadfastly moving ahead with the energy dominance agenda, including during the shutdown. And so I think the question is whether or not he's going to seize the opportunity to push, you know, a little bit of reset and refocus on the mission, or is he going to continue down the same path that led his predecessor to be fired from the same exact position?

ROTT: Bernhardt's predecessor, Ryan Zinke, he resigned from the position, for the record, amid a flurry of ethics allegations. Byrne Hart will have to be confirmed by the Senate. And with Republicans still holding a slight majority there, that seems likely. Nathan Rott, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.