Zinke Withdraws Area Of Montana From Oil And Gas Auction At Last Minute

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke listens during a Cabinet meeting at The White House in Washington, DC, December  20, 2017. Credit: Chris Kleponis / Polaris
Pool/Getty Images North America

A week before the Interior Department is set to auction off parcels of land in Montana for oil and gas leases, Secretary Ryan Zinke pulled a cluster of parcels from the auction on Monday evening.

Zinke, who used to represent Montana in Congress, first made the announcement on Twitter.

Zinke followed up in a statement to the Washington Post, saying that the department needed to study the area more before approving it for auction. Local environmental groups had protested the auction and warned that it could hurt the areas near the Yellowstone river, according to the Washington Post.

“Multiple use is about balance,” Zinke said in the statement. “I’ve always said there are places where it is appropriate to develop and where it’s not.”

Zinke also recently postponed the sale of land in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico, the Post noted.

The secretary made headlines earlier in the year when he exempted Florida from an offshore drilling plan after meeting with Republican Gov. Rick Scott. The move was seen as a political maneuver by the Trump administration since Scott is looking at a Senate bid.