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Obama Announces Interior, Agriculture Leaders

Posted by Andrew Engelson at Dec 19, 2008 03:59 PM |

President-elect Obama announced two cabinet appointments that could ultimately have an impact on trails and wildlands in the Northwest.

On Thursday, Obama introduced his pick for Secretary of Interior, Colorado senator Ken Salazar, and his choice for Secretary of Agriculture, former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack. These two posts are important to Washington hikers because the Interior oversees the National Park Service, and Agriculture oversees the U.S. Forest Service.

Salazar has done quite a bit of work for parks and wildlands as a senator, including sponsoring legislation to add wilderness designation to most of Rocky Mountain National Park, fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and establishing the Park Service's Centential Challenge program.

Most of the media attention on Vilsack has been on his views of  farm policy and biofuels, so it's not clear how he would approach leading the Forest Service. Perhaps an even more important administration position in that regard is the Undersecretary of Agriculture overseeing the Forest Service. That post is currently held by former timber lobbyist Mark Rey. This article in the Missoulian looks at some of the potential candidates for that position including the former mayor of Missoula, Montana.

Meanwhile, many congressional leaders from western states are urging that the upcoming federal economic stimulus bill include funding for infrastructure projects on public lands, whether forest roads, culvert construction, trail and facilities, repair and such. (I still like the idea of reviving the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, which built some amazing recreation facilities in our state.)