Undersecretary Watch- Remembering What They Said About Harris Sherman


I had heard some rumors about the Undersecretary position which intrigued me, so when I heard that there were confirmations last week, I checked to see if “our gal/guy” had been on the list, but she or he was not. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing, because it shows that the wheels of the executive branch can run smoothly (like appointing a Chief who doesn’t seem very controversial) with vacancies unfilled.

Anyway, I thought we could take a trip back in time to the last “new administration first Undersecretary” to see what people said about him. You may remember it was a fellow named Harris Sherman, who had experience as the Department of Natural Resources Director in Colorado (and was amazingly qualified for the job, IMHO). When I first met Harris, he was a lawyer for some ski areas. Were people concerned about his background as an attorney for evil corporations? Or even that he perhaps did not do enough as DNR director with oil and gas regulation? As it turns out.. not so much. If we look at national media and the people they interviewed..they were concerned about his involvement with.. the Colorado Roadless Rule (!).

The New York Times here reposted a piece from Greenwire.. first let’s look at who got quoted in what order..

TRCP- why them? What is it about this group that would make them go-to people about the new undersecretary? Whatever they have/had going on, it would be nice to know how to get that kind of position on someone’s contact list.

Yesterday, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership responded to Sherman’s nomination by stressing the need for safeguarding roadless areas.
“We would like to congratulate Mr. Sherman and ask that he promote the long-term conservation of our backcountry hunting and fishing traditions, including upholding and defending the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which safeguards our nation’s roadless areas, should he be confirmed as undersecretary,” Joel Webster, associate director of campaigns for the TRCP Center for Western Lands, said in a statement.

TWS- makes more sense.

In June, Michael Francis, director of the Wilderness Society’s national forest program, said Sherman’s work on the Colorado rule makes him a poor choice for Agriculture undersecretary. “The process that Mr. Sherman has been leading in Colorado would essentially eviscerate the protections of the 2001 rule,” Francis said. “I question whether he could do what the president would want him to do” (Greenwire, June 11).

Earthjustice Vice President Marty Hayden said that while Sherman’s biggest challenge will be the roadless rule debate,

And then, and only then, do the reporters quote Coloradans. What I think is interesting to reflect on now is that Idaho and Colorado Roadless are pretty much history (ho-hum, what State Roadless Rules?), and as far as I know, nothing worth the rhetoric has happened. In fact, when part of the compromise finally made it through (8 years later) our friends at the Sierra Club issued a release here saying it was Trump’s doing and related it to the Paris Climate Talks. No, I’m not making this up. Anyway, the Durango Herald had a more nuanced view of Harris and his history and qualifications, including important work he did with oil and gas here.

When the new undersecretary is nominated, we can look at national coverage and see what the national “issue of the day” is. Or maybe a Republican nominee will get a rating better than Harris’s “poor” from TWS?

1 thought on “Undersecretary Watch- Remembering What They Said About Harris Sherman”

  1. Seems like there is a lot going on in the world…and seems like there is a lot going on with public lands policy right now before the current session of Congress and through numerous executive actions from the Trump Administration.

    So what’s the use in discussion and debating who was/wasn’t interviewed, and in what order, for one story that appeared almost 3000 days ago?

    P.S. Also, FWIW, it doesn’t appear as if TwS ever gave Sherman a “poor” rating. Mike France doesn’t appear to have said that, the reporter wrote the words “poor choice.”


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