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Know the West

Baca at the barricades

  A movement is under way within the Clinton administration to remove Jim Baca as director of the Bureau of Land Management. Baca has had a difficult year, butting heads with ranchers and miners over federal land reforms and with Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus over a proposed bombing range (HCN, 1/24/94). On Jan. 27, top officials with the Department of Interior admitted that Baca was being pressured to take a lower profile job as deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management. Within hours of hearing the news, national environmental groups mounted a campaign in Baca's defense. "(Removing Baca) would cast serious doubt on this administration's commitment to reform," said Debbie Sease, legislative director for the Sierra Club. Alerts went out through national environmental networks and across the computer Internet. On Jan. 28 the White House and the Department of Interior were deluged with angry protests. By noon Clinton's chief of staff Thomas McLarty ran out of fax paper and was forced to re-route phone calls. Later that night, Baca announced to the press that he would not resign. However, at a press conference Jan. 31, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said discussions were continuing with Baca. As of presstime, no formal decision had been announced.