Senate Confirms Bernhardt as Interior Secretary

Published April 30, 2019

The U.S. Senate confirmed David Bernhardt as the 53rd Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), by a vote of 56 to 41.

Three Democrats—Sens. Martin Heinrich (NM), Joe Manchin (WV), and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)—and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine joined all voting Republican senators in approving Bernhardt as Interior Secretary in the April 11 vote.

President Donald Trump nominated Bernhardt to replace former DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned from the post in December 2018.

Continuing Deregulatory Efforts

Bernhardt’s actions as deputy and then as acting DOI secretary indicate he will continue to carry out the agency’s responsibilities to balance the protection of federal lands and resources with their productive use and to devolve authority for natural resource management to states where appropriate.

On March 14, Bernhardt approved the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) proposal to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list, returning wolf management to states and tribes.

“It is a proud moment when we can tell our children and our grandchildren that the future is secure for these magnificent creatures,” FWS Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson said in a press release. “Our deepest gratitude goes to all our conservation partners in this victory, particularly the states and tribes who are committed to wolf conservation and will continue this legacy forward.”

Coalition Urged Confirmation

On April 3, Heartland Institute President Tim Huelskamp, Ph.D., and Joseph L. Bast, cofounder of The Heartland Institute, joined 20 other organizations and 24 individuals in signing a letter urging the U.S. Senate to confirm Bernhardt as Interior Secretary.

Before joining the Trump administration, Bernhardt previously served as solicitor, deputy chief of staff, and counselor at DOI during George W. Bush’s presidency, the letter noted.

“As Acting Secretary and Deputy Interior Secretary, Mr. Bernhardt has played a key role in the Trump administration’s sound stewardship of federal lands,” the letter states. “DOI under the Trump administration and Mr. Bernhardt … has saved a total of $3.7 billion through major deregulatory actions and has taken concrete steps to expedite and streamline the permitting process for infrastructure and energy projects … under the National Environmental Policy Act.”

‘The Leader America Needs’

Bernhardt is precisely the right person to lead DOI, says George Jamerson, director of government relations at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

“David Bernhardt is the leader America needs at the Department of the Interior,” said Jamerson in a press release. “He will bring responsible management to our public lands along with efficient and much-needed energy development. This is a huge win for energy freedom and America.”

Bernhardt brings critical experience to DOI, says former North Dakota state Rep. Bette Grande, a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.

“[Bernhardt] has extensive experience at the Interior Department, and I look forward to his clear, balanced, and prudent leadership,” Grande said in a press release.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.


Tim Huelskamp et al., “Open Letter of Support for David Bernhardt’s Nomination as Interior Secretary,” The Heartland Institute, April 3, 2019: