Saturday, January 27, 2001
We are pleased that a Coloradan with a good head on her shoulders and a passion for defending the rights of local residents will be the next leader of the Interior Department.
Gale Norton will bring common sense and reason to a department that has been running too hot lately. Fueled by the passions of environmentalists, the Clinton Administration worked hard, especially in the last four years, to set aside as much public land as politically possible.
While we understand the need to protect certain swaths of our national treasure, we can only support such moves when the local residents who will be most impacted are given a chance to speak and to be heard. Too often, that aspect of public land-use policy was either forgotten or given too little weight in the Clinton Administration.
The final move of the Bureau of Land Management under former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt was a prime example.
Just before they left office on Jan. 19, BLM officials quietly gave nearly 6,000 acres of BLM land in Moffat County to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Had it stuck, the decision would have almost doubled the Brown's Park National Wildlife Refuge and stopped off-road use and oil, gas and mineral exploration.
The troubling thing to us about the decision was not why it was made to protect a variety of migratory birds, according the Fish and Wildlife Service but when it was made: in the 11th hour of an administration that had failed to prove its case for the reclassification in the light of day.
Many of our neighbors to the west were incensed when they learned the federal government planned to cut them off from a piece of public land they now enjoy. Thankfully, the move was halted after Rep. Scott McInnis stepped in.
When we look at Gale Norton, we see a leader more interested in listening to the concerns of local residents than the bluster of national environmental groups. We see a thoughtful person who is solidly conservative in her thinking but reasonable in her approach to issues.
We see a Coloradan with Western Slope ideals and an Interior secretary we can support.