Most people might don a sharp suit or iron their shirt on their first day at a new job.
But Ryan Zinke is not most people. He prefers a horse.
On Thursday morning, the newly confirmed U.S. Interior secretary arrived to his office on horseback. The Montana politician, who also sported a cowboy hat, trotted toward the Interior Department building alongside officers from the U.S. Park Police.
“As a Montanan, the new Secretary is excited to highlight the Department’s rich and diverse cultural heritage as he gets to work advancing the Department’s mission,” a spokesperson for the agency said in an email.
Zinke rode from the National Park Service stables at the National Mall to the Department of Interior building around the block. More than 350 federal employees greeted the secretary, and an employee of the Office of Indian Affairs played a veterans honor song on a hand drum, the spokesperson said.
Until this week, Zinke was a freshman Republican representative for Montana and a former state senator. He also served in the U.S. Navy and as a member of its elite SEAL special operations unit, with deployments in Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo and the Pacific.
The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Zinke’s nomination to lead the Interior Department by a 68 to 31 vote.
As secretary, Zinke will be in charge of managing and protecting U.S. natural and cultural resources, such as national parks, landmarks and public lands. The agency also plays a key role in monitoring climate change impacts and updating land management strategies to account for changes like wildfire risk and vulnerability to sea level rise.
Environmental groups and Democratic senators have opposed Zinke’s appointment.
Zinke has said he supports keeping U.S. public lands under federal control, but he’s also called for opening those areas up to more private oil and gas drilling, coal mining and logging. He’s opposed regulations to protect waters in national parks from toxic pollution, which is also the agency’s responsibility.
The League of Conservation Voters gave him a 4 percent “lifetime” score for his voting on national environmental issues as a freshman Montana representative.
Unlike President Donald Trump, Zinke has said he doesn’t think climate change is a “hoax.” But he is skeptical about the extent to which human activity plays a role.
“Climate is changing; man is an influence,” he recently told the New York Times. “I think where there’s debate on it is what that influence is, what we can do about it.”
On Wednesday, Zinke vowed to protect U.S. lands while still boosting extraction of fossil fuels.
“Our public lands can once again be economic engines for our nation by creating jobs in energy, recreation, and conservation,” he said in a statement following his Senate confirmation.
“By working with President Trump and Congress to reevaluate and fix flawed regulations that are barriers to job creation, we will unleash the economic opportunity within our borders,” he added, although he assured that “creating jobs on public lands can and will be done in an environmentally responsible way during my tenure.”