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Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), says recreation-related industries should view former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne as an ally if he passes congressional muster and becomes secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior sometime early this summer.
President Bush nominated Kempthorne to replace Gale Norton as Interior secretary following her resignation in March after five years as a member of Bush’s cabinet overseeing Interior’s agenda at the National Park Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Surface Mining and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Hearings on Kempthorne’s confirmation by the Senate had not been scheduled in early April, although confirmation was considered a formality, in part because the Senate tends to look kindly on its own members nominated to administrative posts.
“Dirk Kempthorne spent six years in the Senate and was a notable friend to a number of recreation programs,” Crandall said. “He was a key player in overcoming problems in the recreation trails program, and we worked with him on national forest and national park planning issues.
“Overall,” he added, “we found him to be very pragmatic to the benefits of working in partnership with the private sector and viewing American public lands as a way to strengthen rural and western communities.”
Norton’s tenure also was considered pragmatic by supporters, while she was viewed by critics as too favorable to energy and mining interests as the Bush administration’s primary proponent for expanding oil and gas drilling in the West and Alaska.
Crandall said that almost instant criticism of Kempthorne by national environmental organizations just comes with the job in a Republican administration. “He was elected governor of Idaho by a sizable majority and he was re-elected by a larger majority,” Crandall said. “I would not expect that any western Republican would satisfy any national environmental group.”