There's an awful lot of gnashing of teeth among environmentalists today as they utter a group lament over the tabbing of Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne as the nominated successor to Interior Secretary Gale Norton.
"Gale Norton in pants," groused one.
"He represents a continuation of five years of an administration policy of exploiting public lands for oil and gas development and other resource extraction," complained another.
"America deserves someone who will promote safe energy policies that protect sensitive lands and wildlife habitat, instead of giving over our public lands to developers and the oil and gas companies," fretted another.
But really, what did environmentalists expect? Another Bruce Babbitt or Cecil Andrus?
There was absolutely no chance that President Bush, already facing criticism on just about every front, was going to choose a nominee who would please the environmental community or alienate either the energy sector or the so-called "wise use" movement.
Come on, the energy industry is just a heart-beat away from having its No. 1 man sleeping in the White House. With the public lands pretty much open to all comers with a drilling rig, the sector wouldn't stand still if Secretary Norton's successor tried to change directions in that arena.
I won't try to recount the environmental community's concerns with Kempthorne. There are dozens and dozens of bloggers out there keeping score. Check out the Daily Kos or the El Paso County Democrats or even Carl Pope's musings on his very own Sierra Club blog.
No one should expect that Governor Kempthorne will alter the Interior Department's course that Gale Norton has charted. If anything, it could become even more contentious. During his one term in the U.S. Senate Kempthorne tried to rewrite the Endangered Species Act and he has a long record against a grizzly bear recovery plan for Idaho.
In a column she wrote while folks were debating who might be tabbed to follow Norton, the Gristmill's Amanda Griscom Little exposed Idaho's governor for what he is: pro logging, pro mining, pro industry pretty much across the board. And if you're really curious, here's a financial "scorecard" that details his campaign contributions in 1996 when he was a member of the Senate.
No, there should be absolutely no surprise that Dirk Kempthorne has been selected for Interior secretary.
But look at the upside: environmental organizations can reload their fund-raising campaigns with his mug, bio, and ties to industries that make their living off natural resources, and he looks a helluva lot better in a cowboy hat than Gale could ever hope to.