the film
Commentaries and editorials

Choice for Interior Official
Too Controversial to Stand

by Staff
Tri-City Herald, June 24, 2011

Business interests across the Northwest are calling on the U.S. Senate to reject the Obama administration's choice of a leading dam-breaching advocate to fill a top Interior Department position.

Sen. Maria Cantwell is under particular pressure, since her seat on the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee gives her added influence over the decision.

The arm-twisting is justified. Cantwell needs to wield her clout to prevent Rebecca Wodder from becoming the Interior Department's next assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Wodder's 16 years as CEO of American Rivers makes her an especially poor choice.

As the Department of the Interior's lead conservationist, Wodder would supervise the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and all Interior programs related to conservation.

The position requires not only strong environmental ties, but also a demonstrated ability to help competing interests reach common ground.

After years of alienating business and economic interests, Wodder is poorly suited to be a bridge builder. Some of the folks she'd need to work with to be successful at the Interior Department are speaking out against her nomination.

The 1,200-member Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce has fired off a letter opposing her nomination.

Don Brunell, president of the Washington Association of Business, has done the same. He shares our concern about the lack of judgment that's apparent in Wodder's myopic focus on breaching the lower Snake River dams.

"Most troubling, Ms. Wodder's continued pursuit of dam removal and statements that extinction is imminent show she has missed or purposefully ignored the massive effort made to protect and recover salmon species and the amazing success in increasing the returns of listed stocks," Brunell wrote.

The Idaho Water Users Association, representing 300 irrigation districts, agricultural businesses and other water users and providers, has called on Idaho's delegation to intervene.

The association's letter makes repeated reference to American Rivers' predilection for litigation over negotiation.

Environmentalists shouldn't necessarily win a lot accolades from the business community, but the lawsuit-prone American Rivers' adversarial stance has been a barrier to good public policy.

The group has filed lawsuits across the country challenging various river operations.

In the Northwest, American Rivers is playing a lead role in legal efforts to stop a comprehensive plan to restore salmon runs on the Columbia River, know as the Biological Opinion, or BiOp.

The framework for making the BiOP successful is outlined in the Columbia Basin Fish Accords. If it survives legal challenges, the plan would spend $967 million over the next decade on projects to improve fish and lamprey survival in the region's rivers.

The agreement -- hammered out among the Umatilla, Yakama, Warm Springs and Colville Indian tribes, the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Bureau of Reclamation and the states of Montana and Idaho -- would result in meaningful changes in river operations.

It's exactly that sort of broad-based cooperation from diverse interests that's needed to foster preservation of our natural resources.

With her history, it's difficult to imagine Wodder as a catalyst for building coalitions out of adversaries.

Her nomination should be passed over in favor of peace-maker, not a litigator.

Related Sites:
Idaho Water Users Association Opposition to Nomination of Wodder

Choice for Interior Official Too Controversial to Stand
Tri-City Herald, June 24, 2011

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