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.