As cabinet post after cabinet post is filled by the incoming Obama administration, one role key to the national parks remains up-in-the-air: that of Interior secretary.
Names have been tossed all over the place since the November election. For instance, names that have surfaced have included Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, a Democrat from Washington state who long has been an ally of the National Park Service; Sally Jewell, the CEO of Recreation Equipment, Inc. (aka REI); former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber; U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, another Democrat from the Evergreen State; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who early on ran for the Democratic presidential nomination; Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who just was re-elected; U.S. Rep. George Miller of California; U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado; and U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona.
Of course, you can cross Bill Richardson off the list, as he's been nominated as Commerce secretary. And Norm Dicks apparently wants to stay in Congress. While there's much support for Mr. Grijalva, some think he's not likely to get the job because Team Obama already has plucked Arizona's governor, Janet Napolitano, as his choice to head Homeland Security, and so the incoming administration won't want to take another high-ranking politician from Arizona.
One name that has been floating under the radar, relatively, is that of John Berry. Mr. Berry has a history in Washington, D.C. While most recently he has been director of the National Zoo, before that he served as executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and before that he served as assistant secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the Interior Department from 1997 to 2000. During his tenure, the agency’s budget increased from $7 billion to $10 billion, and he developed a presidential initiative known as the “Lands Legacy.”
Mr. Berry said the other day that he hasn't been contacted by the new administration, but would love to return to Interior. "I have a deep and abiding appreciation and commitment to the department's mission," he said in a story that ran in CongressDaily. "This opportunity would allow me to advance issues that I am passionate about."
Now, parts of Mr. Berry's resume might draw some concern from the most ardent national park advocates. For starters, he's tied to the American Recreation Coalition, which is a big proponent of motorized recreation in the parks. Most recently Mr. Berry was appointed to ARC's Outdoor Resources Review Group, whose role is to "assess changes in recreation, recreation resources and recreation needs and formulate recommendations for the new Administration and the next Congress..."
“Among ARC’s key objectives are ensuring that the work of this group highlights appropriately the human values of recreation and encouraging discussion about recreation management that appeals to 21st Century Americans while still protecting core natural and cultural resources,” said ARC President Derrick Crandall this past July when the appointments were announced. “I will help this group understand the vital and appropriate roles being played by the private sector in meeting the nation’s recreation and conservation needs – and how steps can be taken to build upon current partnerships. This group will also need to focus attention on the resources and the needs of youth service organizations, including scouting organizations, long involved in connecting American kids to the outdoors.”
Additionally, Mr. Berry apparently long has supported user fees.