Babbitt brings in new brass

  • Patrick Shea, new BLM director

    Michael McRae
  • Jamie Rappaport Clark, Fish and Wildlife Service director

  • Kathy Karpan, Office of Surface Mining director

    Richard Alan Hannon
  • Robert Stanton, National Park Service director


In one fell swoop, the president and the Interior secretary have ushered in a new Interior Department. New directors of the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Surface Mining and National Park Service were sworn into office Aug. 4, after easily surviving Senate confirmation hearings.

All four face major challenges on the job, but none has promised sweeping innovations. Instead, Babbitt's new troop seems focused on incremental changes and broad-based participation.

The new BLM director is Utah attorney Patrick Shea. Though Shea is a Democrat with green leanings, many people see his appointment as a peace offering to Utahns still miffed about Clinton's creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Shea says the president should have involved the public in the monument's planning.

In confirmation hearings before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he assured lawmakers, "I don't plan to institute radical changes or reorganizations to an already weary bureau."

Shea is a marked shift from Clinton's last BLM appointment, outspoken New Mexican Jim Baca, who was driven from office in 1994 because of his aggressive efforts to reform grazing practices on public lands. The BLM has not had an official director in nearly three years.

Shea is hard to pin down on contentious issues such as grazing fees, mining reform and wilderness. His law clients run the gamut from industry to environmentalists to government agencies. He calls himself a mediator, stressing inclusion and common sense.

New Fish and Wildlife Service director Jamie Rappaport Clark expresses similar sentiments. "I firmly believe that involving stakeholders and other agency expertise ... reaps long-term benefits for fish and wildlife," says the eight-year agency veteran.

A wildlife biologist, Clark has been in charge of implementing the Endangered Species Act nationwide since 1994. She has been a proponent of brokering Habitat Conservation Plans to protect endangered species on private lands (HCN, 8/4/97).

She is the second woman to head the Fish and Wildlife Service, following Mollie Beattie, who died last year of brain cancer.

Former Wyoming Secretary of State Kathy Karpan is the new director of the Office of Surface Mining. The agency was created in 1977 to protect communities and the environment from the effects of coal mining.

Karpan is a Rock Springs, Wyo., native and the daughter of a coal miner.

Texas native Robert Stanton is the new director of the National Park Service, replacing Roger Kennedy, who stepped down as agency chief in February. Stanton had retired last January after 35 years with the agency, the last eight as regional director for the service in Washington, D.C. He is the first African American to direct the Park Service.

Like Shea, Stanton has been careful not to take sides on controversial issues such as the agency's natural management policy. He's taking a "wait-and-see approach," says Jerome Uher of the National Parks and Conservation Association.

"It's good that we have someone in office. It's hard to go leaderless," says Uher. "A lot of these agencies have been drifting for a while. Now we can get back to work."

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