Former federal, state officials ask Salazar to step up energy reforms

A group of 60 former state and federal regulators who previously oversaw energy extraction on public lands fired off a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar late last week asking him to make good on his earlier reform promises as he responds to lapses that may have led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Salazar last week announced plans to split up the Mineral Management Service (MMS), the federal agency charged with extracting billions in on- and offshore drilling revenues. Critics claim the scandal-plagued agency – infamous for the sex, drugs and influence-pedaling debacle at its Lakewood office in recent years – is way to close to the industry it’s supposed to regulate.

Salazar in January announced a plan to reform U.S. Bureau of Land Management oil and gas leasing policies to better reflect the need for environmental and public health safeguards. Observers say he has yet to act on those previous promises before embarking on the latest round of badly needed reforms.

In a press release announcing the letter last week, several retired federal and state officials provided the following comments:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar

Mike Dombeck, former chief of the Forest Service and Director of the Bureau of Land Management:

“After spending nearly my entire professional life managing public lands, I know the challenges of balancing energy development with good stewardship. We’ve seen in recent weeks in the Gulf what can happen when balance, common sense and enforcement are sacrificed. It is imperative that we restore balance to energy development both on and off-shore in order protect the health of our land and water – we hope that Secretary Salazar’s leasing reform will do that.”

George Lea, former Deputy Director of the Bureau of Land Management:

“As retirees, we believe we can now offer an objective and non-bureaucratic view of what is really happening to the public lands. It’s a tough job to balance these issues, but it is Salazar’s responsibility to bring management of leasing and development on our public lands back in check, to allow energy development to continue while preserving other important uses of our public lands.”

Gloria Flora, former superintendent of the Lewis and Clark and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests, Montana:

“I was happy to hear Secretary Salazar’s announcement on Tuesday of leasing reforms for offshore drilling, and we are hopeful that we will soon see the final announcement of onshore leasing reforms as well. Drilling has major impacts both off and onshore – those we know and anticipate, but even more importantly, those we pray never happen.”

John Ellenberger, former state Big Game Manager, Colorado Division of Wildlife:

“In Colorado, much of the richest energy resources are located under some the best wildlife habitat in the state. But the state’s wildlife, and the hunting and fishing it supports, can’t thrive unless good management practices are in place to ensure its protection. It takes a genuine effort on both sides, state and federal agencies and the energy development companies, to ensure that an appropriate balance is struck in order to maintain wildlife habitats and allow reasonable energy development.”

Bill Eikenberry, former Associate State Director, Wyoming BLM:

“As users of these wonderful lands we have a responsibility to future generations to ensure their delicate and balanced management.”

And here’s the text of the letter sent to Salazar on May 13:

Dear Secretary Salazar,

As former federal land management agency officials, wildlife managers, and energy regulators throughout the West, we applaud your announcement of new policies for onshore oil and gas lease reform and your efforts to restore balance to the leasing process on public lands.

We recognize the arduous and complex task of balancing energy development with stewardship of our land, air, water, and wildlife. As defined by multiple-use mandates of federal land management agencies, it is important to preserve the integrity of our public lands and our wildlife habitat as we develop our important natural resources. Your proposal to reform the leasing policies for oil and gas seems to restore much needed balance to the leasing process, and is an important step forward for this administration.

Policies like those you outlined – but have not yet finalized and implemented – will help to restore balance and common-sense values to management of our public lands, while still allowing development of our energy resources. They represent good- government policy that will balance multiple uses and are in synch with public and local opinion.

As you have said on many different occasions, these lands belong to American taxpayers. Over the past decade, a great deal of taxpayer dollars and agency resources have gone into dealing with protests and lawsuits. Your reforms to the BLM oil and gas leasing program will provide certainty to oil and gas companies while restoring balance to the management of our public lands, decreasing the amount of controversy over leasing decisions and adequately involving the public in the leasing process.

We commend you for your work to date, and encourage you to move forward with this important onshore lease reform work.

Sincerely,

Mike Dombeck
Former Chief
United States Forest Service

Dale Bosworth
Former Chief
United States Forest Service

Jim Baca
Former Director
Bureau of Land Management

Mike Penfold
Former Assistant Director
Bureau of Land Management

Jim Furnish
Former Deputy Chief
United States Forest Service

George Lea
Former Deputy Director
Bureau of Land Management

Jim Ruch
Former Director
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Perry Olson
Former Director
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Elaine Brong
Former State Director
Oregon/Washington Bureau of Land Management

Ann Morgan
Former State Director
Colorado Bureau of Land Management

Mat Millenbach
Former State Director
Montana Bureau of Land Management

Larry Hamilton
Former State Director
Montana Bureau of Land Management

Bill Eikenberry
Former Associate State Director
Wyoming Bureau of Land Management

Brad Powell
Former Regional Forester
Pacific Southwest Northwest and Northwest Regions
United States Forest Service

Ellie Towns
Former Regional Forester
Southwest Region
United States Forest Service

Dave Roberts
Wildlife Program Leader
Wyoming Bureau of Land Management

John Mumma
Former Regional Forester, Northwest Region
United States Forest Service
Former Director

Colorado Division of Wildlife
Rich Stem
Former Deputy Regional Forester
Region 2
United States Forest Service

Richard Long
Former Director
Region 8 Air Program
Environmental Protection Agency

Gloria Flora
Former Forest Supervisor
Lewis and Clark National Forest
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

Gary Long
Former Wilderness and Recreation Coordinator
Wyoming State Office
Bureau of Land Management

Gene Reetz
Senior Environmental Scientist
Region 8
US Environmental Protection Agency,

Walter Rule, Jr
Former District Ranger and Public Affairs Officer
United States Forest Service

Jack Kelly
Former Field Office Manager
Lander Field Office
Wyoming Bureau of Land Management

Steve Belinda
Former Wildlife Biologist
Wyoming Bureau of Land Management

Steve Torbit
Former Wildlife Biologist
Wyoming Fish and Wildlife Service

Fred Roberts
Former Wildlife Biologist
Pinedale, WY and Lewistown MT field offices
Bureau of Land Management

Bob Elderkin
Former Oil and Gas Regulator
Bureau of Land Management

Steve Norris
Former Assistant Director
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Larry Gerard
Wildlife Biologist
Alamosa, Rawlins, Lander, Buffalo Field Offices
Bureau of Land Management

Todd Malmsbury
Former Chief of Information
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Lee Otteni
Former District Manager
Farmington field office
New Mexico Bureau of Land Management

Ivan James
Former Hydrologist
United States Geological Survey

Tom Heffernan
Former Realty Specialist
United States Forest Service

John Ellenberger
State Big Game Manager
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Dennis Buechler
Former Wildlife Biologist
US Fish and Wildlife Service

Wes Wilson
Former Environmental Engineer
Region 8
US Environmental Protection Agency,

Dan Grenard
Former Geologist
Royal Gorge Field Office
Bureau of Land Management

Dennis Willis
Former Recreation Planner
Price Field Office
Bureau of Land Management

Rob Firth
Former Chief of Law Enforcement
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Arch Andrews
Former Public Affairs Manager
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Bruce Gill
Former Big Game Research Leader
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Len Carpenter
Former Terrestrial Research Leader
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Tom Powell
Former Aquatic Research Leader
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Gary Miller
Former State Ecologist
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Bob Towry
Former State Wildlife Manager
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Pam Schnurr
Former Habitat Biologist
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Gene Byrne
Former Area Biologist
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Chuck Loeffler
Former Wildlife Biologist
Colorado Division of Wildlife

John Seidel
Former Area Wildlife Manager
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Dave Kenvin
Former Habitat Biologist
Colorado Division of Wildlife

John Toolen
Former Habitat Biologist
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Rebecca Frank
Former Wildlife Commission Member
Colorado Wildlife Commission

John Woodling
Aquatic Researcher
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Bill Heicher
Former Wildlife Manager
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Nick Pinell
Former Wildlife Manager
Colorado Division of Wildlife

Bob Hernbrode
Former State Big Game Manager
Colorado Division of Wildlife
Former Arizona Wildlife Commissioner

Gayle Joslin
Former Wildlife Biologist
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Jim Posewitz
Former Bureau Chief, Ecological Services Division
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Lynn R. Kaeding
Former Fishery Biologist
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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