Major federal appointments dealing with the Pacific Northwest environment are still waiting to be made by President-elect Barack Obama. Washington and Oregon candidates do not appear to be in the top tier. As a result, environmental leaders are turning to plans to link Northwest forests and streams to the high priority the new administration will give to climate change.
Early speculation for Secretary of the Interior, traditionally a Western appointment, had centered on former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a longtime advocate of salmon and wildlife; and Congressman Jay Inslee, a Seattle Democrat with expertise in alternative energy matters. Sally Jewell, CEO of REI, was also being pushed by regional environmentalists, but her name seems to have faded. Kitzhaber is reluctant to move to Washington and expects the appointment of Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, a Hispanic who is also supported by a coalition of 106 conservation organizations, according to a letter from more than 78 groups sent to President-elect Obama and released last week by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
UPDATE:The Denver Post is reporting that Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar will be named later this week as Obama's Interior Secretary, and also that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper has a good chance of being the new Transportation Secretary.
Of equal importance is the position of Undersecretary of Agriculture in charge of the U.S. Forest Service, also traditionally from the West. Talk of an undersecretary will await appointment of a Secretary of Agriculture, traditionally from a farm region.
Climate change is the mantra for scientists, environmentalists and conservationists in the forthcoming Obama administration, and through that huge portal some of the Pacific Northwest's big-picture environmental leaders hope to also advance a progressive agenda for regional forests and streams.
"Is there a T.R. possibility?" muses Mitch Friedman, director of Conservation Northwest and a longtime defender of wilderness.