“Career Person for BLM Director” Op-ed in Colorado Springs Gazette

For those interested, here’s my op-ed on the topic from the Colorado Springs Gazette. I won’t belabor it here as some of its the same as the “open letter” yesterday. I encourage folks who feel the same to submit their views to their own outlets. In case there’s a paywall I can’t see (being a subscriber), I copied it below.

Select a seasoned, career employee for BLM director

This summer has challenged wildland firefighters due to megafires, dealing with COVID, fuel shortages and a host of other difficulties. Unfortunately, one of the main agencies involved in wildland firefighting is without a director. The Biden administration nominated Tracy Stone-manning, who comes with long-term ideological questions (her role in tree-spiking) and more recent ethical questions (her misstatements before Congress and questionable loans while serving as a Senate staffer). Hence her confirmation has been delayed.

Due to these issues, the promised “early summer” review of the oil and gas program has not materialized, leaving states like Colorado, oil and gas workers, and probably federal court judges wondering what’s up and what’s next.

There’s also the need for political horse-trading to get the nomination through. The current stalemate makes no sense to many current employees and retirees. On Secretary Deb Haaland‘s recent trip to Colorado, as reported by Colorado Politics, she said “My first priority is to avoid doing any more harm to the BLM’S dedicated employees. We owe them that.” To accomplish that goal, there’s a simple solution: pick another nominee, preferably a tested career employee and allow them to get to work.

Just because a BLM director can be a political appointee from outside the agency doesn’t mean that they have to be. Successful directors in the past have come from the ranks.

Indeed, because of the challenges of COVID, wildfires and climate change, it might be time to turn the partisan dial down and the workhorse dial up. I suggest taking a page out of the Forest Service book and immediately nominating a seasoned and respected career natural resource professional as director.

At the Forest Service, just such a transition quietly occurred in the midst of a global pandemic and this catastrophic summer of wildfire. There were absolutely no internal or external ripples; it was a quiet handoff from one seasoned and admired career chief to another.

There are several high-quality career candidates in the wings who could be nominated as BLM director and would be likely to be immediately approved. A list could be developed in a matter of days, including candidates who would add to the diversity of the Interior leadership team. These individuals have worked in a variety of states, states with a greater BLM presence and diversity of programs and issues than Montana. They will have worked directly with wildfire and restoration.

Such a person would sail through confirmation, leaving political capital on the table for more important administration priorities. The employees could breathe a sigh of relief, and soon administration work would be churned out in a timely way with a minimum of “new appointee” tension. That would benefit all of us.

It’s the administration’s choice: choose someone seen as experienced and capable to an array of pols and employees, simply moving on to do the work — or engaging in needless political drama for an unknown period, to no imaginably better ultimate end. I think it’s an easy call.

Sharon Friedman is a Forest service retiree and the editor of the smokey Wire. the smokey Wire is a community sourced and supported news and opinion site that fosters civil discussion and mutual learning among people with different views on federal lands and forest policy.

I suspect the unique capitalization of The Smokey Wire is due to some editing algorithm.

6 thoughts on ““Career Person for BLM Director” Op-ed in Colorado Springs Gazette”

  1. Fascinating that Sharon so often goes great lengths to reach across the aisle and try to work on building bridges between enviros and industry, yet when it comes to a women who’s built a far more prestigious career in doing just that, suddenly Sharon is embracing a fossil fool agenda of falsely slandering modest environmental efforts of the candidate for head of the BLM. It’s entirely false to imply that her nomination is an example of democrats backing an ecoterrorist agenda. She’s a Washington DC insider with a strong and well established relationship with the members of congress who are going to confirm her appointment with her vote along party lines.

    The real terrorists here are the fossil fuel industry that Sharon supports without question in her op-ed. No matter how corrupt and complete their obstruction of addressing climate change is, no matter how many record setting wildfires or record hot summer months get, Sharron will engage is all in on a bogus smear campaign to support her terrorists friends who have been lying about what they’ve been doing to our atmosphere for a 1/2 century. That’s not a good look Sharon

    A recent op-ed summed up best what she is participating in here:

    “Stone-Manning is the opposite of “radical” and “extremist.” Having worked on conservation projects together, it’s clear she goes out of her way to find ways to collaborate and build coalitions. She has spent her 30-year career working in the middle of some of the thorniest conservation issues that have faced our public lands and waters. She has done the hard work of relationship building so that hunters and anglers, loggers, snowmobilers, mountain bikers and conservationists could develop a land management plan that everyone could be proud of.

    She’s done that kind of thing over and over and over again during her professional career. Yet, somehow the only thing Republican senators want to focus on — in their floor speeches, press releases and the more than 350 written questions they sent her — is her year in grad school more three decades ago.

    It seems, they knew they couldn’t take on her career, so they have attempted to bury it. It’s the type of erasure many women experience throughout our lives and careers.” https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/565686-tracy-stone-mannings-confirmation-treatment-was-simply

    What this all comes down to is because the republicans failed to win the last election cycle, as well as failed to overthrow the federal government in its entirety in a murderous attack on certification of the election on Jan 6th with near 500 arrests and growing, we no longer have to deal with their direct attacks from fossil fools leaders coming directly from head of the BLM and now only have to listen them complain about another appointment that they lack the votes to stop.

    Not only are Sharon and her planet destroying friends losing their grip on power but history will not remember these efforts in a way you’ll appreciate Sharon, they’ll only celebrate your continued demise because the future liveability of this planet depends on it.

    Reply
    • Deane, since Sharon is likely to kind to point this out, I’ll do so. Since you seem to want, primarily, to insult folks, a turn in kind: Controversy is a last resort for the talentless. How, pray tell, does having a realpolitik consideration of a potentially better range of nominees for a highly specific position automatically puts someone on a par with, I dunno, 1970’s Phillip-Morris and 1980’s Royal Dutch Shell in terms of their views on science and the planet?

      It’s no wonder we can’t even approach, let alone have, civil discourse.

      Some recommended reading: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/grandstanding-9780190900151?cc=us&lang=en&

      Sharon – don’t let the propensity for insults hold you back, for those of us that prefer something approaching discourse (instead of a soapbox)

      Reply
  2. Deane, I don’t think you are reading this carefully.
    ” It’s entirely false to imply that her nomination is an example of democrats backing an ecoterrorist agenda. ”

    I didn’t say that at all. I just said that there are lots of other good people out there and it doesn’t make political sense to horse-trade with Republicans over a BLM Director. Isn’t there something more important to spend political capital on?
    I also think that there is a large pool of great people out there, women and men of all kinds of diversity.
    Montana is one state.. we could get someone with experience in many places in the West.

    And it’s not just my point of view.. since I posted the article I’ve heard from D’s politicals who agree with what I said, but won’t go on record as breaking ranks.

    It’s not a smear campaign against Stone-Manning; it’s simply I think they can do better and spend political capital on something more important. It’s a matter of numbers of people to choose from, experience and diversity.

    Reply
  3. This is a typical smear campaign, based on selective use of information, and Sharon is supporting that by her characterizations as “misstatements before Congress and questionable loans.” Those are opinions, not facts, and these are only political issues to those who want them to be. I’m sure part of the GOP strategy is to create controversy that will make her less effective if she is confirmed. Why reward that?

    Here are the rebuttals.

    “Yet the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case, George Brietsmeter, told The Associated Press he doubted that Stone-Manning received a letter informing her she was a target of the investigation.”
    https://dailymontanan.com/2021/07/16/conflicting-stories-emerge-as-tracy-stone-mannings-nomination-hangs-in-the-balance/

    “There is no evidence that she did anything untoward in securing the loan or in using her official roles to benefit her creditor. Stone-Manning said she did not even know of interests Goldberg had before the government. In 2020, after making interest-only payments every month for 12 years on the personal loan, Stone-Manning paid off the principal.”
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/zacheverson/2021/07/20/republicans-question-bidens-bureau-of-land-management-pick-over-personal-loan-from-developer/?sh=5fc80fb0720d

    I guess I also need to point out that Sharon’s failure to include a disclaimer that she is not representing the views of the Smokey Wire or its contributors may be problematic for those of us who do not share her views.

    Reply
    • Jon, it’s problematic to me that folks who are Partisan Tribalists always portray questions as a “smear campaign” from the other party, and “necessary due diligence” when their own party does it (e.g. Brett Kavanaugh).. assuming the best about their own people and the worst about everyone else.

      I also don’t agree that I should censor what I believe to be true because it might help Republicans. I think that there is lots of pressure to leave the center unoccupied and it is actually occupied, but those voices tend not to be heard, due to the current biases of different outlets.

      If you wrote an op-ed, no one would assume that Steve nor Andy nor Larry nor I agree with it.

      As I said to Deane, my sources tell me that many D politicals off record agree with me. As for me and the loan thing, I remember in our ethics training, you don’t accept money due to appearance of conflict of interest.. you don’t actually have to do something for the person who loaned/gave you money. Also for me, I tend to believe the FS law enforcement person and take a broader view of “investigated”. That all being said, my point was that why are they messing with all this when they have so many potentially better people out there to select from? It doesn’t make sense to me, and to many others out there.

      Reply

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