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U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke addresses 1,600 delegates at the Republican convention in Grand Forks, Saturday, April 7, 2018. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service

Interior Secretary Zinke scheduled to spend four days in North Dakota

BISMARCK—Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke plans to spend four days next week in North Dakota, including visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park and meeting with state and tribal leaders.

Zinke, who was invited to Bismarck to speak at an oil industry conference, will spend Monday, May 21, through Thursday, May 24, in North Dakota, followed by a three-day visit to South Dakota, Interior Press Secretary Heather Swift said.

On Tuesday, Zinke plans to visit the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora. The visit is scheduled to include a hike and a tour of some infrastructure projects, Swift said. On Wednesday, Zinke will be the keynote speaker for the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, which more than 2,000 people are expected to attend.

Zinke also plans to meet with representatives from North Dakota Native American tribes, have dinner with Gov. Doug Burgum, meet with state legislative leaders and visit the McClusky Canal and Snake Creek pumping plant, Swift said.

"For him to invest this kind of time in the state is absolutely fantastic," Burgum said Friday.

North Dakota Indian Affairs Commissioner Scott Davis said he was still waiting to hear details of Zinke's visit, but was pleased that he is meeting with tribal leaders.

"It's a very good sign of the government-to-government relationship, the trust responsibility that the Interior Department has to all of the tribes across the nation," Davis said.

North Dakota tribal leaders likely will raise concerns to Zinke about a shortage of federal law enforcement, Davis said. In addition, leaders of the Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa Nation are likely to discuss efforts to streamline the permitting process for natural gas infrastructure projects to reduce flaring at Fort Berthold, Davis said.

Another topic likely to be discussed during Zinke's visit is the possibility of locating a future Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in or near the national park, Burgum said.

"He's been very eager to stay in tune about the work that we're doing through the Presidential Library Foundation to move forward with that," Burgum said.

State Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said he and House Majority Leader Al Carlson were invited to meet with Zinke after he speaks at the petroleum conference.

Zinke's trip is part of a string of recent visits by members of President Donald Trump's Cabinet to North Dakota. Zinke, a former Congressman from Montana, also spoke recently at the North Dakota Republican Convention in Grand Forks and has met with Burgum several times in Washington, D.C.

"I just think we're very fortunate to have someone in that role who grew up next door and understands North Dakota, appreciates North Dakota and wants to help us reach our full potential," Burgum said.