Rifle man tapped for No. 2 spot at Interior

Senate to vote on nomination

David Bernhardt

A Rifle native is awaiting a U.S. Senate hearing on his appointment as deputy secretary of the Interior.

David Bernhardt, who in 2006 was unanimously confirmed by the Senate as the department’s solicitor, was nominated to the No. 2 spot in Interior by President Donald J. Trump, drawing support from U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., whose 3rd District includes most of the Western Slope and much of southern Colorado.

“David Bernhardt is an excellent choice for Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and it will be great to see a native of the Third Congressional District of Colorado representing the voices of the West in Washington,” Tipton said in a statement.

Bernhardt’s nomination also drew criticism from the Denver-based Center for Western Priorities, which called him a “walking conflict of interest” and said that if he recuses himself from all his conflicts, “he’ll have nothing to work on at Interior.”

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke praised Bernhardt’s experience serving with Interior Secretary Gale Norton and said Bernhardt’s “legal career is exactly what is needed to help streamline government and make the Interior and our public lands work for the American economy.”

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., also welcomed Bernhardt’s nomination, saying that his experience at Interior “and vast knowledge of natural resources policy prove he is well qualified and a great choice” to serve as deputy secretary.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is continuing to review the nomination, his office said.

Bernhardt earned his bachelor’s from the University of Northern Colorado. He graduated with honors from the George Washington University National Law Center in 1994 and was admitted to the Colorado Bar that same year.

Solicitors do the legal work for federal departments.

Bernhardt worked as in-house counsel for U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, who said that when called upon to deal with specific Western issues, Bernhardt was already familiar with local players and issues, not just the legal concepts, McInnis said.

“We didn’t have to ramp him up,” McInnis said.


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