The good steward

Last week I commented on the Washington Post’s lame “farewell” to outgoing Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. The Post failed to find fault with any of Norton’s specific decisions or policies, and it conceded that she had made a persuasive case for her approach to environmental protection. Nonetheless, it complained that Norton sided too often with business, and that she had failed to “bridge the gap” between those interests and the “environmentalists.”

For a less superficial analysis of Norton’s tenure at Interior, we turn to the Washington Times’ farewell editorial. The Times describes (as I attempted to do a while back) Norton’s philosophy of “cooperative conservation,” and documents some of its successes. While cooperative conservation may not bridge the gap between business interests and doctrinaire environmentalists, it often bridges the gap between the federal government and the people who actually use the land, be they farmers, ranchers, sportsmen or other outdoor enthusiasts.

Unlike the Post, the Times also provides some facts and figures. For example, under Norton’s leadership, 5 million acres of land — mostly wetlands and forest habitats — and 10,000 miles of rivers and streams were restored. And the government issued ten times more permits for wind and geothermal energy than it did during the second term of the Clinton administration.

The Times concludes that “Mrs. Norton’s most lasting contribution will be her demonstration that successful conservation goes hand-in-hand with the philosophy that local citizens are often the best stewards for America’s natural lands.”


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