New Chief of Staff at NRE Hire “Key” to Implementing Wildfire Strategy: Former Lobbyist for UFW and Earthjustice

Thanks to E&E news and reporter Marc Heller for this one..

The Agriculture Department today announced four senior staff appointments, including for positions handling conservation and environmental policies.

Andrea Delgado will be chief of staff for natural resources and environment, an area that primarily covers the Forest Service. Delgado comes from the United Farm Workers Foundation, where she was director of government affairs.

Delgado has a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the State University of New York at Geneseo.

In her new role, Delgado will play a key part in implementing a 10-year wildfire strategy the Biden administration released yesterday, with its mix of forest management and measures to protect property in fire-prone areas.

What is her background, one might ask? Well, she worked for the United Farm Workers Foundation most recently, and before that, Earthjustice. She was one of the Hill’s Top Lobbyists of 2018 working for Earthjustice. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to place her somewhere working with agriculture?

But maybe she heard about wildfires around the Earthjustice watercooler… so what does that organization think about wildfires?

In 2018, President Abigail Dillen released this statement:

“The only ‘radicals’ here are Trump administration officials who are exploiting a climate tragedy to try to benefit their friends in the timber industry. There’s no question that climate change is driving these catastrophic wildfires and the deadly air quality that goes along with them.

But what does the 10 year plan say about the timber industry? They’re listed under “Creating Conditions for Success.”

FOREST PRODUCTS. The wood products industry has been and will remain an important partner for helping achieve restoration outcomes and reduce wildfire risk. New and innovative uses
of wood, such as cross-laminated timber, can not only support restoration and risk reduction outcomes but also sequester large quantities of carbon.

Would it be too great a leap to assume that Ms. Delgado’s previous employment did not necessarily set her up with the skills to be successful with some of the envisioned partnerships?

Is it good to have experience in a field before you become a “key part” of leading a difficult effort?

Honestly, I’m having a little trouble believing it. As we’ve talked about previously with the choice of BLM Director at Interior, there are plenty of experienced, knowledgeable and diverse fish in the sea. USDA so far had a good track record on selections.

Say it ain’t so, Secretary Vilsack!

13 thoughts on “New Chief of Staff at NRE Hire “Key” to Implementing Wildfire Strategy: Former Lobbyist for UFW and Earthjustice”

  1. I knew Andrea a little bit when we were both at Earthjustice. She’s incredibly sharp, and has years of experience and contacts on Capitol Hill, which the Secretary’s office will find very valuable. I think she’ll be an asset to the administration.

      • With all due respect, what insight? So she’s smart and well-integrated to capitol hill. That much can be gleaned from being a top lobbyist circa 2018. What would be more interesting is knowing to what extent she can be expected to drive the department / branch in a manner consistent with past credentials that speak more to selection on the basis of having the right politics (see Sharon’s larger discussion on BLM appointees) versus the basis of being someone who is more experienced in the actual workings of the NRE branch. Not that such implicitly political appointments are unique in any way. I will grant that Ted chose his words carefully though, that is an asset to the administration, not the department per se. Probably an important distinction to be had there.

        • A- I just wonder where we lose needing to “knowing the people and the issues” along the way from Chief to the Prez. Of course, we have Meryl Harrell and Robert Bonnie at USDA, so is that enough knowledge and experience? I expect that this appointment pleases someone, somewhere, the question to me would be “who” and “why”?

          • Good way of putting it on that first sentence there, it’s true that there’s going to be reliance on delegation and such along the way, and higher levels can hardly be expected to be independent of larger politics or know folks down to the field level. at the end of the day, probably good to just be aware of the currents with these kinds of appointments

    • It’s only bad when the other guy does it because [insert here, right politics, right motives, good guy].

      Remember to prepare to be accused by some frequent flyers of whataboutism or focusing on the wrong thing, whereas they were speaking truth to power or whatever when they made substantially similar point questioning the motives or politics of appointees.

      At the end of the day land management is inescapably political and pointing out this appointment, or stone-manning, or zinke or whomever across administrations is a good way to remind folks of that, and that’s the end of it to my mind. Call it what it is, specifically the appointment of someone with favorable politics to the current administration and groups that said administration relies on for voting bloc support. Which is fine, again hardly unique to this admin. But pointing it out seems important, to keep all of us on our collective toes. Who’s in charge and why matters.

      • I couldn’t agree more, @Anonymous: shouldn’t we be focused on knowledge, expertise, and the ability to do what the job requires, recognizing that even those skills may be in the eye of the political beholder?

        For example, I would have much rather seen a forester or ecologist seated as Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment (technically the only “political” appointment relevant to the Forest Service), rather than someone with 40 years of experience working with farmers at NRCS. While the USFS is at USDA because “trees are crops,” I had hoped for more enlightened nominations from this administration. Just goes to show, I guess, that political decisions can be disappointing regardless of party.

        Certainly makes me long for the days of Mark Rey, who at least knew what he was doing and how to get it done (lobbyist credentials and all), even though I disagreed with almost everything he did during his tenure.

        • SJ- we did have Jim Hubbard as Undersec during the last admin. I remember being in a meeting with Mark about the GMUG plan (or maybe their o&g leasing decision?) where he said..”I just don’t want to get a phone call from the Vice President about this”.. which reminded us he wasn’t always calling the shots either.

      • I agree and it’s also important for people with natural resource backgrounds coming up the career path to absorb that at the end of the day, and at levels above the Chief, it’s “not what you know but who you know” writ large. It can be frustrating, but that’s the way it is, no matter what party is in charge. My favorite FS expression: “if you’re not the lead mule, the scenery never changes”.. which is not to say you can’t still have a fun, fulfilling career as a minion (and retire to a enjoy delightful activities where you can be in charge, with a ore than satisfactory income and benefits).

    • From that article: “And former lobbyists serving Trump are often involved in regulating the industries they worked for.” That’s the most pernicious part of the lobbying revolving door, but I don’t see this USDA appointment as an example of that.

  2. I never let politics affect my decisions in the field. There are rules, laws and policies that must be followed, no matter who is in charge. Sometimes you are ordered to do something questionable, though. It is important to question such orders, at the least. I’ve had to disregard those orders, knowing that such an action would be litigated, if found out. In the end, the orders were rescinded, from above the District Ranger level. (I was directed to mark trees over 30″ dbh, if they blocked viable oak trees. Both the Forest Supervisor and Forest TMO ‘advised’ the District Ranger to not cut trees over 30″ dbh)


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