WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Federal lands could soon be in new hands. Acting Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt was tapped by President Donald Trump to do the job full time. Bernhardt has support from Alaska’s lawmakers, but his path to confirmation is not without roadblocks.
“He is just solid,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
Murkowski says Bernhardt brings a wealth of experience to the post. That is why she is supporting him to assume the job full time.
“He’s a good manager but he’s knowledgeable about Alaska’s issues,” said Murkowski.
President Trump tapped the former oil and gas lobbyist after former Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned in December amid a wave of controversy. Bernhardt was Zinke’s deputy at the time. Murkowski does not think a cloud of scandal will follow Bernhardt through his confirmation process.
“He is not somebody that generates headlines for any matter that might cause question for him,” said Murkowski.
Alaska conservation advocates have plenty of questions for Bernhardt a former Bush Administration official. The Alaska Wilderness League fears Bernhardt will exploit the Last Frontier for its resources.
“If your goal is to give the oil companies and mining interests, logging companies everything they want, then he’s the guy you want to nominate,” said Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League.
Kolton says Alaska’s lands are in trouble. He thinks Bernhardt will push harder for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a controversial topic that has been dividing Alaskans for years. Kolton thinks Bernhardt will be plagued by conflicts of interest.
“He barely can kind of turn into any subject area where he hasn’t represented a client before. That’s not the kind of drain the swamp attitude that we heard from the Trump administration,” said Kolton.
As of now there is no timeline for Bernhardt’s confirmation.