Idaho Gov. Kempthorne named interior secretary | VailDaily.com
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Idaho Gov. Kempthorne named interior secretary

WASHINGTON – President Bush picked Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne on Thursday to be his new interior secretary, selecting a pro-development Western Republican to push for more oil and gas drilling from the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska’s North Slope.Kempthorne, 54, would replace departing Secretary Gale Norton if confirmed by the Senate, and he would take over managing areas as diverse as the Grand Canyon and the Gettysburg battlefield. Norton announced her resignation last week after five years of running a department that manages one-fifth of the nation’s land.”Dirk has had a long and abiding love for nature,” Bush said as he announced the appointment. “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.”‘Bush said Kempthorne has broad experience needed for managing the 388 parts of the National Park system, 544 wildlife refuges and more than 260 million acres of multiple-use lands located mainly in 12 Western states.”Dirk understands that those who live closest to the land know how to manage it best, and he will work closely with state and local leaders to ensure wise stewardship of our resources,” Bush said.Kempthorne said he appreciates and respects Bush’s “genuine enthusiasm for this great land of ours in all of its grandeur and its essence.” He promised to be “a responsible steward of the land and the natural resources with which our nation has been blessed.”His chances of Senate confirmation are greatly increased by his six years in the Senate from 1993 through 1998. The Senate rarely turns down one of its former members for the Cabinet, and Republicans hold the majority with 55 of 100 seats.”Dirk is a strong nominee,” said Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. “He’s an outspoken advocate for America’s parks and has a wealth of public service experience at both the state and federal levels. I look forward to his swift confirmation by the Senate.”One Democrat, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, said she welcomed the appointment. “He understands the Northwest and a lot of Interior issues,” she said, adding that Kempthorne had “stood up to the administration” over nuclear waste cleanup at a federal facility in Idaho.The League of Conservation Voters, the main lobbying arm for environmental groups, said its scorekeeping shows Kempthorne hostile to their interests.”During his career in Congress, Gov. Kempthorne earned a paltry 1 percent lifetime LCV score. Enough said,” declared Tony Massaro, a senior vice president of the group.Todd True of Earthjustice law firm said that as Idaho’s governor, Kempthorne “led the charge to strip protection from 60 million acres of America’s last wild forests and he’s consistently fought against protection for wildlife like grizzly bears and salmon.”On a new interior secretary’s agenda is the administration’s desire to open 3.6 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling over vehement objections from the president’s brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He also would be the administration’s chief advocate for allowing oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.After his one term in the Senate, Kempthorne was elected governor in 1998 and easily won a second term in 2002 with more than 55 percent of the vote in his reliably Republican, conservative state. He spent the past year pushing for more state parks and improving and expanding the state’s roads with money raised from bonds.Two days before Bush took office, Kempthorne sued to block the Clinton administration’s plan to reintroduce up to 25 grizzly bears over five years into the Bitterroot wilderness of Idaho and Montana. Norton withdrew the plan five months later. Kempthorne was part of a four-state salmon recovery effort, working with Indian tribes and the Northwest Power Planning Council to try to help the endangered fish without removing dams or curtailing hydroelectric power output.—On the Net:Interior Department: http://www.doi.govVail, Colorado


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