- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Bush selected Dirk Kempthorne as Interior secretary yesterday, saying the Idaho governor brings wide experience to the job of managing the nation’s parks, public lands and natural resources.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Kempthorne — a 54-year-old former senator — would replace Gale A. Norton in the Cabinet. She resigned last week after more than five years in office.

“Dirk understands that those who live closest to the land know how to manage it best,” the president said, “and he will work closely with state and local leaders to ensure wise stewardship of our resources.”

Making a case for Mr. Kempthorne as a nature lover, Mr. Bush said, “When he and his wife, Patricia, were married, they chose to hold the ceremony atop Idaho’s Moscow Mountain at sunrise.

“Dirk said, ‘I don’t think there’s a more beautiful cathedral than the outdoors,’” Mr. Bush said with Mr. Kempthorne at his side.

Mr. Kempthorne, a former mayor of Boise, Idaho, declared, “God bless America the beautiful. I would be honored to serve this land.”

Mr. Bush praised Mrs. Norton as the first woman to lead the Interior Department and said she had been instrumental in establishing an initiative to protect communities from catastrophic wildfire. He said she also helped lead efforts to restore offshore energy production after Hurricane Katrina.

“Future generations of Americans will be able to enjoy our great national parks and wildlife refuges because of Gale’s untiring work,” he said.

Mr. Kempthorne served one term in the Senate, then retired to return home and run for governor. He was elected in 1998, and easily won a second term in 2002 with more than 55 percent of the vote.

Mrs. Norton’s tenure was stormy at times, and her second-in-command, Steven Griles, had a close relationship with convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Several e-mail exchanges between the two men are the subject of investigations by a Senate committee and the Justice Department.

The Interior portfolio often involves a clash between developers and environmentalists. Mrs. Norton’s successor will have to deal with issues as diverse as a backlog of building needs at the National Park system and the state of health care on impoverished American Indian reservations.

Barring an unexpected complication, confirmation should be a formality for Mr. Kempthorne. The Senate rarely turns down one of its former members for the Cabinet, and Republicans hold the majority with 55 of 100 seats.

The Interior Department manages one of every five acres in the United States, including 388 areas in the national park system, 544 wildlife refuges and more than 260 million acres of multiple-use lands located mainly in 12 Western states.

It also manages 824 dams and reservoirs, administers protections for endangered species and works with 562 federally recognized Indian tribes. For the past decade, the department has been embroiled in a lawsuit over the department’s responsibility for Indian trust money.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide