- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2001

Over in the "other Body" (the Senate), Colin Powell is facing relatively easy scrutiny for secretary of state, John Ashcroft is confronting intensely partisan questioning in his quest for attorney general and Tommy Thompson clearly controls the issues in his Health and Human Services bid. Gale Norton, President George W. Bush's nominee for the position of secretary of interior, has faced aggressive opposition from national environmental lobbies.

She deserves the grassroots support of environmental stewards from throughout the country for her distinguished career of public service to the land, the people of her state, and of the nation as a whole.

The current electrical power crisis in California, where my constituents face blackouts, is a perfect parallel to the battle fought by Gale Norton in her hearings for the interior post. I have had the honor to visit Yerevan, Armenia, where the president of that former Soviet nation proudly announced to me that they no longer had blackouts "to show that we are not a Third World country." What is California?

Gale Norton's commitment to working on federal land issues and the environment has spanned more than 20 years. Most recently, she served as attorney general for the state of Colorado for eight years. Her record in Colorado clearly demonstrates that she is a champion of the rights of individuals and of the environment. She was closely involved in 12 major environmental cleanup projects, including cleaning the Rocky Mountain Arsenal and the Rocky Flats Nuclear facility of toxic and hazardous materials. And, she worked to ensure that the state's interests and laws, not the federal government's overreaching demands, were a major consideration in each of the projects she enforced.

She has been an influential voice for reasonable solutions to complex problems. She is known to promote innovation, collaborative solutions and partnerships. She is clearly of the same cut of cloth as Mr. Bush, a "uniter, not a divider."

She has come under fire from national environmental lobbyists and organizations that are rarely part of any solutions. These are the same national environmental groups that recently scared-off the City of San Jose, Ca. from approving the development of a new natural gas-fired power plant to address the growing demands for power in the Silicon Valley. These are the national environmental groups that have so restricted timber sales that several co-generation biomass power plants are sitting idle. These are the national environmental groups that want to tear down the Snake River dams that contribute enough power to the overtaxed Western power grid to serve 1.5 million people.

These are not your neighbors and friends. These national environmental fund-raising groups, such as the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, and the National Resources Defense Council, use their national lists to stir up opposition to anyone who addresses the growing demands for infrastructure throughout the West. These are the groups who have tied up some 33 percent of the U.S. land mass in public lands, and then have worked systematically to keep the citizens who own those lands from enjoying them.

It is worse in the West, where more than two-thirds of our national forest land has been set-aside as "roadless" and where as much as 92 percent of a state can be under federal jurisdiction.

When local environmentalists, who are the people that really work with and understand the land, are involved in environmental decision-making, they tend to be pragmatic, reasonable and to balance the needs of communities and people with the needs of the environment. The Quincy Library Group's local solution to the Plumas National Forest harvesting plan is an excellent example of local environmentalism. Gale Norton is this type of "local" environmentalist. I am proud that I am, also. Of course, the national lobbies oppose such local read uncontrolled solutions.

With George W. Bush providing leadership, and Gale Norton providing the administrative and legal assistance, maybe California can find its way out of the excess influence of the national environmental lobby and, working with local citizens and stewards, help to solve our critical power shortfall. Then California, like Armenia, will no longer act like a Third World country.

I urge my friends in the "other Body" to quickly confirm Gale Norton as secretary of the interior.

Rep. George Radanovich represents the 19th District of California. He is chairman of the Western Caucus, and a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and the Resources Committee.

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