[env-trinity] New York Times Editorial 1 2 09

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Fri Jan 2 09:01:11 PST 2009


Editorial

Is Ken Salazar Too Nice? 

Published: January 1, 2009 

The word on Ken Salazar, tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to run the
Interior Department, is that he is friendly, approachable, a good listener,
a genial compromiser and a skillful broker of deals. That is also the rap on
Ken Salazar. Skip to next paragraphneeds right now is someone willing to
bust heads when necessary and draw the line against the powerful commercial
groups - developers, ranchers, oil and gas companies, the off-road vehicle
industry - that have long treated the department as a public extension of
their private interests. 

Conservationists and pretty much everyone else exhausted by the Bush
administration's ideological rigidity and deference to commercial interests
have welcomed Mr. Salazar's appointment. The Colorado Democrat has a solid
voting record on issues involving wilderness and wildlife protection and can
be expected to bring a strong conservation ethic to the top of the
department. 

Yet that will not be nearly enough to reform and reinvigorate the
department. The Interior Department is an unusually balkanized agency, with
eight separate divisions charged with managing 500 million acres of public
land in a way that balances private and public claims. It is essential that
Mr. Salazar find the right people to run each of these fiefs, and find ways
to make them work intelligently and harmoniously in the nation's interest. 

We cannot tell Mr. Salazar where to find those people, although there are
probably excellent civil servants who might be worth elevating. What we do
know is that he should stay far away from the lobbying groups and businesses
that his department is sworn to regulate and avoid think tanks with extreme
ideologies. 

Those are the places where Vice President Dick Cheney and President Bush's
first interior secretary, Gale Norton, found many of their top political
appointees. The results were disastrous. 

Exhibit A was J. Steven Griles, a lobbyist for the oil and coal industries
who, as deputy secretary, basically ran the department until he was snared
in the Jack Abramoff bribery scandal in 2004. Three years later, Julie
MacDonald resigned from her job as deputy assistant secretary for fish and
wildlife after a report accused her of manipulating the work of agency
scientists to undermine the Endangered Species Act and slipping internal
documents to industry lobbyists. 

Paul Hoffman, another deputy assistant secretary whose main qualifications
were that he had run a chamber of commerce in Wyoming and served on Mr.
Cheney's Congressional staff, wrote new rules for managing the national
parks that would have weakened environmental protections. Kathleen Clarke,
director of the Bureau of Land Management and a favorite of the oil and gas
industry, became an ardent cheerleader for Mr. Cheney's
drill-now-drill-everywhere policies that put some of the country's most
fragile landscapes at risk. 

There were many more appointments like these, and collectively they have
clouded the department's mission and demoralized its employees. 

Mr. Salazar has a huge reconstruction job ahead. He should surround himself
with a core group of dedicated, quality people, and remember that being nice
to everyone won't cut it.

 

 

Byron Leydecker, JcT, Chair

Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 

415 519 4810 cell

bwl3 at comcast.net

bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org

www.fotr.org 

 

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