NATION


When Paul Hoffman went hunting in Wyoming's Absaroka Mountains last fall, he shot a six-point bull elk. Then he cut it into steaks and burgers for his family to eat. Now he plans to take the stuffed head and antlers to Washington, D.C., to decorate his new office.


"I think that's one reason they picked me - I have experience on the ground, enjoying these resources," he says.


But environmentalists have a different take on why the Bush administration recently picked Hoffman as assistant secretary of Interior for fish, wildlife and parks, in charge of national parks, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


"There's a pattern of installing people who put profit ahead of the health and protection of the public's resources," says Jon Catton of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.


For the past 11 years, Hoffman ran the chamber of commerce in Cody, Wyo., a gateway to Yellowstone National Park, where he opposed the park's attempt to ban snowmobile tourism, opposed reintroduction of wolves, and called for more development of the park. Prior to that, he was a staffer for Vice President Dick Cheney, when Cheney was a Wyoming congressman. Hoffman, 48, says his appreciation of the outdoors began with his first backpacking trip at age 12. "I bring a good balance." His resume includes a bachelor's degree in economics, and stints as a wilderness guide, bartender and carpenter.


Hoffman began his new job Feb. 1.