State Politics

To advise Interior Department, Trump turns to lawyer with Idaho’s Melaleuca

Ryan Nelson.
Ryan Nelson.

A lawyer for Melaleuca with past experience in several federal government jobs has been nominated as solicitor for the Department of the Interior.

Ryan Nelson, who oversees the legal and policy departments at the Idaho Falls company, would now be the chief attorney for the department and principal legal adviser to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The new job includes overseeing 400 employees, including 300 other attorneys.

Nelson, who is from Idaho Falls, worked as a Justice Department lawyer before Melaleuca, serving as deputy assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources division, managing the natural resources, wildlife and appellate sections, according to a news release from the White House. He also worked as deputy general counsel for the White House Office of Management and Budget, and as special counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee and as a law clerk for the Senate Legal Counsel.

The Interior Department put out a statement praising Nelson’s nomination, including quotes from Idaho U.S. senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and Frank VanderSloot, the Melaleuca CEO and major Republican donor.

“Ryan has been a primary member of the management team and the chief legal adviser for Melaleuca, Inc. for nearly eight years,” VanderSloot said. “I have personally come to trust and rely on his legal mind and deep commitment to the law, as he has effectively advised the company over the years. During his service, the company has nearly tripled in size and Ryan has built a strong legal team and worked tirelessly to successfully guide the company’s growth. President Trump and Secretary Zinke have chosen the best possible candidate to lead the Department of the Interior’s legal team. Ryan is a true patriot and I fully support his personal sacrifice in serving this country that he loves so much.”

“Ryan Nelson’s background is a strong fit for the U.S. Department of Interior as he has worked on a wide-range of policy issues important to both Idaho and to the nation,” Crapo said. “Combined with his strong legal background, Ryan will bring a point of view to Interior that is critically important given the agency’s jurisdiction over significant portions of the Western United States. I congratulate Ryan on his nomination and will work with my Senate colleagues to advance his confirmation.”

“Ryan Nelson’s experience handling environmental and natural resources policy and his vast understanding of issues impacting Western states make him well-qualified for this position,” said Risch, who is on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that will oversee the nomination. “I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to swiftly confirm his nomination.”

“I am pleased to see an Idahoan nominated for such an important role at the Department of the Interior,” Simpson said. “I congratulate Ryan Nelson on his nomination to lead Interior’s Office of the Solicitor and I look forward to his important work advising the Secretary on decisions which impact Idaho and the Western United States.”