How is Secretary Kempthorne Doing After Year One?
On June 7, 2006, Dirk Kempthorne was sworn in as the new Secretary of the Interior, answering the call of President George Bush to replace the retiring Gale Norton. The Department of the Interior had been going through terrible scandal before Kempthorne's arrival. So how are things going today? The Seattle Times published an article this week reviewing the last year.
Democrats and Republicans alike praise him for pumping more money into national parks, repairing the department's relationships with Congress, and moving beyond the scandals that damaged the agency in recent years.
Kempthorne even pleased skeptical environmentalists last December by proposing to list the polar bear as threatened because of thinning sea ice caused by global warming.
At the same time, he has continued Bush's controversial policies that favor oil and gas development on public lands, and his department has added no species to the endangered-species list since he became Interior secretary.
But Kempthorne asked Dicks what he wanted from Interior. Dicks talked about the reduction of the Park Service's budget and the problems it was causing, particularly in Washington state. Kempthorne committed himself to fixing that.
In September, on the 90th anniversary of the National Park Service, Kempthorne announced the Centennial Project to improve and restore national parks. He vowed that the agency would raise $3 billion in public and private money by 2016 for the effort.
"That was very astute on his part," said Dave Alberswerth of the Wilderness Society. "What's the most popular public service? It's not the IRS," he said, laughing. "It's the Park Service."