Senate confirms Bernhardt as Interior secretary |

Senate confirms Bernhardt as Interior secretary

Acting Secretary David Bernhardt visiting Watson Hopper Inc. in Hobbs, New Mexico.
Tami A. Heilemann/U.S. Department of the Interior/FLICK

The U.S. Senate confirmed Rifle native David Bernhardt as the 53rd Secretary of the Interior on Thursday.

Bernhardt has served as acting director of Interior, which oversees the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management, since former Secretary Ryan Zinke’s departure in January.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Bernhardt in a 56-41 vote. Colorado’s Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner supported Bernhardt’s confirmation. Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet did not.

“I’ve known David for over 20 years now, and I am confident his experience at the Department of Interior makes him more than qualified to do this job,” Gardner said in a statement. “David understands how important issues like conservation and moving the Bureau of Land Management West are to the people of Colorado, and that makes his confirmation today great news for our state.”

Third District Congressman Scott Tipton also issued a statement following the Senate vote to confirm Bernhardt.

“As a native of the 3rd Congressional District in Colorado and a career advocate for responsible multiple use of our public lands, David is well-suited for his new role,” Tipton said. “He is a dignified public servant and has shown his dedication in his roles of Deputy Secretary and Acting Secretary of the Interior.

“I am excited to continue working with him on public lands issues,” Tipton added. “I thank the Senate for a quick confirmation and wish David well in his new full-time job.”

Conservation groups had opposed Bernhardt’s appointment, pointing to his recent past as an oil and gas lobbyist before he was tapped to be the Interior’s No. 2 official two years ago.

“Being a Colorado native does not give David Bernhardt special qualifications for running the Department of the Interior, and shame on Sen. Gardner for letting the fox guard the henhouse simply because he’s from the same neighborhood,” Kelly Nordini, executive director for Conservation Colorado, said in a statement.

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