Yesterday, Bush named Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne as the new secretary of the interior. Kempthorne is a popular Western Republican with Washington experience and a highly “disputed environmental record.” Bush tried to sell Kempthorne as a friend of the environment, but was quickly shot down by environmentalists.
“Dirk understands that those who live closest to the land know how to manage it best,” Bush said as he introduced his nominee to reporters in the Oval Office late in the day. “And he will work closely with state and local leaders to ensure wise stewardship of our resources.”
Bush said Kempthorne would help “develop the energy potential of federal lands and waters in environmentally sensitive ways.”
But environmental groups immediately assailed the selection, calling it the latest example of the Bush administration selling out to development and energy industry interests. Environmentalists noted that Kempthorne fought to open national forests to logging, mining, and oil and gas drilling. They said he worked to weaken water safety and endangered species laws.
“At a time when these controversial issues need a leader who can find common ground, the president could not have chosen a more divisive nominee,” said Philip E. Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust.
The League of Conservation Voters offered a two-sentence response: “During his career in Congress, Governor Kempthorne earned a paltry 1 percent lifetime LCV score. Enough said.”