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What's the Latest On The Search for An Interior Secretary?


Would John Berry, head of the National Zoo, be a good choice for Interior secretary? Smithsonian Institution photo.

As cabinet post after cabinet post is filled by the incoming Obama administration, one role key to the national parks remains up-in-the-air: that of Interior secretary.

Names have been tossed all over the place since the November election. For instance, names that have surfaced have included Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, a Democrat from Washington state who long has been an ally of the National Park Service; Sally Jewell, the CEO of Recreation Equipment, Inc. (aka REI); former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber; U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, another Democrat from the Evergreen State; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who early on ran for the Democratic presidential nomination; Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who just was re-elected; U.S. Rep. George Miller of California; U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado; and U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona.

Of course, you can cross Bill Richardson off the list, as he's been nominated as Commerce secretary. And Norm Dicks apparently wants to stay in Congress. While there's much support for Mr. Grijalva, some think he's not likely to get the job because Team Obama already has plucked Arizona's governor, Janet Napolitano, as his choice to head Homeland Security, and so the incoming administration won't want to take another high-ranking politician from Arizona.

One name that has been floating under the radar, relatively, is that of John Berry. Mr. Berry has a history in Washington, D.C. While most recently he has been director of the National Zoo, before that he served as executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and before that he served as assistant secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the Interior Department from 1997 to 2000. During his tenure, the agency’s budget increased from $7 billion to $10 billion, and he developed a presidential initiative known as the “Lands Legacy.”

Mr. Berry said the other day that he hasn't been contacted by the new administration, but would love to return to Interior. "I have a deep and abiding appreciation and commitment to the department's mission," he said in a story that ran in CongressDaily. "This opportunity would allow me to advance issues that I am passionate about."

Now, parts of Mr. Berry's resume might draw some concern from the most ardent national park advocates. For starters, he's tied to the American Recreation Coalition, which is a big proponent of motorized recreation in the parks. Most recently Mr. Berry was appointed to ARC's Outdoor Resources Review Group, whose role is to "assess changes in recreation, recreation resources and recreation needs and formulate recommendations for the new Administration and the next Congress..."

“Among ARC’s key objectives are ensuring that the work of this group highlights appropriately the human values of recreation and encouraging discussion about recreation management that appeals to 21st Century Americans while still protecting core natural and cultural resources,” said ARC President Derrick Crandall this past July when the appointments were announced. “I will help this group understand the vital and appropriate roles being played by the private sector in meeting the nation’s recreation and conservation needs – and how steps can be taken to build upon current partnerships. This group will also need to focus attention on the resources and the needs of youth service organizations, including scouting organizations, long involved in connecting American kids to the outdoors.”

Additionally, Mr. Berry apparently long has supported user fees.


Yikes! Well at least he's better than Mike Thompson (who voted against roadless areas in Tongass for example)!

Grijalva still remains the best choice, and people need to continue the push for him to be apppointed. Don't let insider politics drail the best opportunity we have to clean up interior and protect our public lands. he is staying in the hunt. His folks are saying that he is not giving up this fight for interior until the president elect makes the call.

Perhaps Mr. Berry can find a middle-ground where motorized use can be balanced with conservation at all levels. Having someone in that post who can objectively look a both sides would be a boon to the DOI, not at all a detriment.

Time is short for planet earth, let's get a pro-active conservationist in the DOI. Let's tone down all of are afterburners with less energy and select a good man that can make it all happen. May I suggest several individuals: Mr. Grijalva is a good one but we need someone more dynamic. Perhaps somebody from the Stuart Udall family would like to throw in there hat. The Parks have been screwed over for years, let's get them in order for the next generation...what's left of it from global warming.

More gloom and doom? Really? Even in light of a recent study that found that melting ice may slow warming? Even in light of a recent report titled, "More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims"?

But back to the topic.

Someone please submit my name to Mr. Obama for Interior Secretary. I promise to remove national parks from political influence once and for all. I promise to replace parasitic, monopolistic multinational corporations that are national park concessions. I promise to render national parks self-sufficient. I promise to eliminate pork-barrel parks such as Steamtown.

Whomever Obama chooses will be interesting. Will he pick someone interests groups approve? Or will he bring real change to the DOI? Somehow, I suspect it is the former.

Frank C, if so choosen...please keep the NRA influence out of the National Parks...which I dare you won't do...Mr. Gun shop!


Actually, my plan would keep interest groups, including the NRA, from influencing park management. Once parks are removed from federal ownership and management, the second amendment would not apply. Individual parks, freed from political chains and federal bureaucracy, would be able to determine if people would be able to carry firearms in the privately managed parks.

Berry is the best choice out there because he is a committed conservationist, the only candidate with experience within Interior and a track record of leading and managing large organizations, and is highly respected by Members of Congress from both parties. Beyond the serious conservation issues the next Secretary will face, they will inherit a Department that has not been effectively managed for decades. He turned the National Zoo around...can any of the other Interior Secretary candidates say they have done something similar?

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