Martha Hahn has been forced out of her job as the Idaho state director of the Bureau of Land Management in a housecleaning move by J. Steven Griles, deputy secretary of the Interior.
Hahn announced on March 7 that she would resign rather than take a position with the National Park Service overseeing New York Harbor operations. Hahn says Griles notified her by letter that the Park Service post was her only option.
"There wasn't even any discussion about what my choices might be," Hahn tells High Country News. "That was disappointing."
Hahn served in the $120,000 post as Idaho state director for seven years and was widely seen as a person who took a low-profile role in her job. She was one of five women who were named BLM state directors under the Clinton administration (HCN, 12/12/94: BLM: The next generation).
Environmentalists accuse Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, of orchestrating her departure because she backed grazing cutbacks in the Owyhee Mountains in southwest Idaho. "I think Martha got hammered because she wasn't intervening enough on behalf of the ranchers," says Gene Bray of the Western Watersheds Project.
But Craig denies responsibility. "It's not unusual in a new administration that these positions change hands," Craig told The Idaho Statesman. "We have a lot of issues in Idaho, part of which are a product of her leadership or the lack (thereof). It's time for new blood and new direction."
Jeff Ruch, executive director of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), says Hahn's removal is disturbing because she wasn't given a reasonable chance to stay with the agency.
"She's a civil servant, not a political appointee," Ruch says. "The Interior Secretary (Gale Norton) is not only shifting employees around, she's trying to drive people like Martha Hahn out of public service."
Copyright © 2002 HCN and Stephen Stuebner