[env-trinity] Push begins for Thompson as interior secretary

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Sat Nov 22 10:34:07 PST 2008

Push begins for Thompson as interior secretary
Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 11/22/2008 01:24:15 AM PST

A congressman who hunts, fishes and grows wine grapes is being promoted for interior secretary by two prominent fellow lawmakers. That congressman just happens to be the North Coast's own Mike Thompson. 

California Democratic Reps. George Miller and Anna Eshoo recently sent a letter to the incoming administration urging consideration for Thompson as President-elect Barack Obama's appointment for secretary of the Interior, spokespeople for the two representatives confirmed Friday. 

"Mike Thompson is immensely qualified to be Interior secretary," Miller said in a statement. "He has a strong base of support in conservation, environmental and outdoors community. He is knowledgeable about issues. And he is a person of great integrity and commitment to public service." 

Nearly three dozen sportsmen's groups, including Ducks Unlimited and Wildlife Forever, also sent a letter supporting Thompson to President-elect Barack Obama's transition team. 

Wildlife Forever CEO and President Doug Grann said Friday that Thompson was an easy choice for the organization, which provides funding for a wide variety of conservation efforts and is one of the founders of the American Wildlife Conservation Partnership. 

"We know of Mr. Thompson's record as a conservationist and a sportsman, and when his name came forward in the many discussions we were hearing out of Washington, D.C., we thought he would be an excellent choice," Grann said. 

"First and foremost, I was impressed that he's a life-time conservationist and sportsman. He's a hunter and an angler, and thus would represent the constituent base of our membership well in his oversight of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service." 

The Interior secretary is tasked with overseeing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the United States Geological Survey and the National Parks Service. 

Thompson, 57, won re-election in November and will start his sixth term in January. He serves on the Ways and Means and chairs the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Human Intelligence, Analysis and Counterintelligence. 

He also co-founded the Wine Caucus when he arrived in Congress in 1999, is an avid hunter and has pushed legislation and disaster relief on behalf of salmon fishermen in Northern California. 

According to the California Secretary of State's Office, if Thompson were appointed, the governor would call a special election in California's 1st Congressional District to fill his seat. 

But, that's far from a sure thing, as Thompson said in a statement that he has yet to be contacted by the incoming administration. 

"It's an honor to be recognized by the many groups I've worked with over the years, but no one associated with President-elect Obama has contacted me," Thompson said in a statement. 

But Thompson backers are heartened by comments Obama made in an interview with Field & Stream magazine in September that his Interior secretary probably would be a sportsman or sportswoman. 

"I think that having a head of the Department of Interior who doesn't understand hunting and fishing would be a problem," the magazine quoted Obama as saying. 

Like Thompson, Grann also said he's not heard from the Obama team since penning the letter in support of Thompson. But, Grann said, he's still hopeful for Thompson's chances. 

"I know (the Obama transition team is) busy," Grann said. "It's a big job for the transition team, and I think they're way ahead of the curve. We think it will be a big positive that the Obama organization does value input from various groups. We're hopeful that Mr. Thompson has a good chance at being secretary of the Interior." 

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson at times-standard.com.

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