I guess four years in Washington was enough for Craig Manson, who will resign his Interior Department post at year's end to return to California to teach law.
Not many environmentalists will miss Manson, the assistant secretary of fish, wildlife and parks, as he has been a key proponent of overhauling the National Park Service's Management Policies and reworking the Endangered Species Act.
What strikes me, though, is the timing of his resignation. The Interior Department is grappling with a basketful of contentious issues, and for Mr. Manson to simply turn his back on them and walk away seems peculiar.
Earlier this fall Mr. Manson, who often is referred to as "Judge Manson," as he was a judge on the California Superior Court before joining the Interior Department staff in 2001, granted me an interview to discuss the changes proposed to the Management Policies by Paul Hoffman, who works under Manson in the Interior Department.
At the time he and I differed on whether Mr. Hoffman's proposed changes would allow more motorized recreation into the national parks. That's largely history now, as the Park Service has produced a toned-down version of the revisions, although there's still great concern over the impact they would have on the integrity of the park system.
Along with his interest in the Management Policies, Mr. Manson has had a strong say in the decision by the Interior Department to recommend that grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem have their "threatened" status under the Endangered Species Act removed.
And he's been a proponent of what environmentalists would term a "softening" of the Endangered Species Act.
I'm very surprised by the timing of Mr. Manson's resignation. It comes as the Interior Department is trying to ram through the revision of the NPS' Management Policies, trying to delist grizzly bears, trying to rewrite the book on sponsorships for the parks, and as Rep. Richard Pombo of California is trying to overhaul the Endangered Species Act, open up more public lands to mining and development, and even consider changes to the National Environmental Policy Act.
In other words, there's a lot going on with environmental issues, and to have Mr. Manson abandon ship at this time seems a bit odd.
Still, he's leaving Washington for more comfortable surroundings. After he leaves the Interior Department, Mr. Manson will take up residence at the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.