Obama enviros now total 34


The Obama administration has now enlisted at least 34 people who have direct ties to environmental groups or clear leanings in that direction.

That's my running count of the enviros nominated or appointed to top jobs in federal agencies and the White House.

The latest is Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Today, the Obamaites nominated Sherman to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment. If the Senate approves the nomination, Sherman would oversee the U.S. Forest Service and all those issues.

Sherman, 66, has held a lot of environmental positions in Colorado government, ranging from water quality to wildlife to mine reclamation. According to his bio, he's also "active in land conservation efforts with the Nature Conservancy, Colorado Open Lands, and the Trust for Public Land."

In case you missed it in the opening sentence, here's the link to my full list of Obama enviros, which keeps growing and growing. It includes an additional three enviros who are very close to the administration but not officially in it (so the total is really 37 enviros wielding influence like this). They come from groups such as Environmental Defense Fund and American Rivers -- not the movement's left wing -- and they're in positions over public lands, wildlife, energy and climate policy. Please add to the list if you see I've missed some.


Lists, leanings and wings
Felice Pace
Felice Pace
Sep 11, 2009 10:45 AM
Hey Ray, how about giving us a list of how many people from or with "clear leanings" toward the extractive industries Obama has appointed? Also, has he appointed anyone at all from the enviro movement's "left wing"? I'd also like to know which groups you consider to be on the environmental movement's right wing?
enviro wings
Ray Ring
Ray Ring
Sep 11, 2009 01:30 PM
The right wing of the enviro movement, as I see it, is composed of the free-market enviro think tanks (PERC, FREE etc) and their allies -- those who believe that the private sector (entrepreneurs, businesses and property owners) is the best way to address enviro issues. They believe government is inefficient, plodding, monolithic, dull-minded, often unfair and run by corrupt politics, while the private sector is nimble and many-faceted addressing the issues. They believe if you own the riverbank, you take better care of it than the government would, because of the government's problems and the tragedy of the commons.

This political spectrum within the enviro movement is my construct -- as far as I know, I'm the only journalist writing in these terms. I think it's useful figuring out how different kinds of enviros work and sometimes work against each other.

In the center or slightly to the right of center are The Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land and their allies -- those who do conservation business deals within a framework of environmental laws and regulations.

The left wing enviros pretty much believe that enforcement -- laws and regulations, lawsuits and ranger patrols -- will protect the environment.

The hook and bullet groups (National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, Izaak Walton League, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership etc) fall along the spectrum from slightly left of center to slightly right of center. They tax themselves with hunting and fishing licenses and special sales taxes on their gear, so they can consume wildlife and nature experiences, and they understand they need to protect habitat that produces what they want.

Of course many of the groups use a range of strategies but each group does tend to have a central strategy.
left and right efficacy
Sandy Olson
Sandy Olson
Sep 12, 2009 09:23 AM
My question is what do the various shades of environmental groups accomplish? Does it matter what they espouse politically if they serve the environment? I am not being disingenuous but rather practical. We need to build coalitions to get things done. And in the long term working together will also serve to erode the stagnating, distructive, fear based divisions that have gripped this country.
Left Wing Enviros
Felice Pace
Felice Pace
Sep 12, 2009 03:06 PM
In Ray's view "The left wing enviros pretty much believe that enforcement -- laws and regulations, lawsuits and ranger patrols -- will protect the environment."

It is a strange world indeed where those who are for enforcement of duly established laws and regulations are the "left wing"!

I guess I may be to the left of left. I believe we need citizen activists out there working to make sure that the laws and regulations passed via the democratic process are followed - not necessarily to every letter but definitely in the spirit and with equanimity.

When I first became an activist I was surprised and outraged that some people were expected to follow the rules while others were not. I was equally surprised and outraged when there were rules but no one is expected to follow them - as in national forest grazing.
I'm still outraged but not surprised.
Having political and economic influence take precedence over the rule of law seems radical to me. Working to make sure everyone plays by the rules seems conservative.
How do you rectify this in your own mind?
Matthew Koehler
Matthew Koehler
Sep 14, 2009 01:23 PM
Ray said, "The left wing enviros pretty much believe that enforcement -- laws and regulations, lawsuits and ranger patrols -- will protect the environment."

Ray, I'm wondering where conservation groups like The Lands Council, Oregon Wild, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Wild South, WildWest Institute, Friends of the Bitterroot, Cascadia Wildlands Project, et all and etc fit into your "enviro wings" categories?

As far as I can tell, all of these groups believe in enforcement of laws and regulations and would certainly fit squarely into your category of "left wing enviros."

However, these groups are also deeply involved (and have been for quite some time) with cutting edge, open, inclusive and transparent "collaborative processes" to find sustainable solutions dealing with public lands, logging, wilderness, restoration, water quality and wildlife issues.

It's worth noting that these true, bona-fide "collaborative processes," which many "law and regulation" enviro groups are involved with, differ greatly from the self-selective, exclusive and secret "collaborations" [such as the Beaverhead Partnership] which you and HCN seem to frequently trumpet.

I'm just curious as to how you go about rectifying all of this in your own mind? Thanks.
Mr. Ring: Still awaiting your reply
Matthew Koehler
Matthew Koehler
Sep 26, 2009 12:39 PM
matter of degree
Ray Ring
Ray Ring
Sep 27, 2009 07:52 AM
Hi Matthew -- It's a matter of degree, as you know. Some groups are more likely to engage in collaboration than others, some more likely to engage in lawsuits. Also there are different degrees within the notion of collaboration -- how much real compromise each group is willing to do to reach agreement with other interests ... and please no need to call me Mr. Ring here.
Obama greens
Rich Snee
Rich Snee
Sep 12, 2009 12:59 PM
Interesting exercise, Ray. But I'm surprised Interior Secratary Ken Salazar isn't on the list. Not sure whether he belonged to any green groups, but he was the former head of the Colorado DNR, where he helped create Great Outdoors Colorado. I don't think anyone could call his tenure as Colorado AG pro-industry. He was very anti-drilling (Roan Plateau)and anti-shale oil development as senator, and he supported the Clinton roadless rule. There may be a few blemishes on his resume, like his endorsement of Gale Norton for Interior, which may not please the Thousand percenters. But I certainly count him as a green. Tell me why he shouldn't be on your list.
Interior green
Ray Ring
Ray Ring
Sep 13, 2009 09:26 AM
Ken Salazar might belong on this list because I've expanded the definition since I began building the list weeks ago.

At first I listed only people who had direct ties to environmental groups. Over time I expanded the definition to include some clearly green-leaning government and academic people ...

Another reason I didn't list Salazar is that as soon as he was nominated to run Interior, he drew criticism from the environmental movement's left wing -- those who see him as a rancher and compromiser ...

I'll probably add Salazar to the list next time I update it. Thanks for the nudge.

About Ray

Ray has been a Western journalist since 1979. He's now High Country News senior editor, based in Bozeman, Montana. He's earned national recognition including a George Polk Award for political reporting, a Sidney Hillman Foundation Journalism Award for investigating oil-field accidents, and an Investigative Reporters & Editors scroll for going undercover as a prison inmate. He's had three novels published.