TU Will Give New Interior Secretary Benefit of the Doubt

Mon, 01/29/2001

TU Will Give New Interior Secretary Benefit of the Doubt

TU Will Give New Interior Secretary Benefit of the Doubt

Commits to Working With Her to Conserve Trout and Salmon Habitat


1/30/2001 --  --  Contact: Steve Malloch, Counsel: (703) 284-9415
Steve Moyer, Vice President for Conservation Programs: (703) 284-9406

January 31, 2001...Arlington, VA...Despite its earlier concerns over the appointment of Gale Norton as Secretary of the Interior, the nation's largest coldwater conservation organization will give the new Secretary an opportunity to demonstrate her willingness to be a steward of the nation's natural resources.

"Trout Unlimited remains deeply concerned that if Secretary Norton implements her past environmental philosophies at the Department of the Interior, trout and salmon habitat will be adversely affected. However, in light of her recent promises during her confirmation hearing, we are willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and work with her to improve and enhance the nation's natural resources," said Charles Gauvin, President of Trout Unlimited.

In a January 17 letter to members of the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Trout Unlimited (TU) asked Committee members to present Ms. Norton with a series of questions to determine her intentions regarding critical conservation issues, from water allocation, to the Endangered Species Act (ESA), to funding for critical programs.

"While her past record includes actions that appear inconsistent with her new duties, during the confirmation hearing she nonetheless pledged to uphold the law and attempted to distance herself from her more controversial positions," said Gauvin.

When questioned by Committee members about her avid support of private property and states’ rights, Ms. Norton acknowledged that while she felt strongly about individual rights, she denied believing in the “right to pollute,” noting that she can bring together opposing sides and balance private needs with those of the environment.

Gauvin said one of TU's primary concerns regarding the appointment of Secretary Norton, is the ESA process and especially protection of a listed species’ habitat, something Ms. Norton has opposed at least since her tenure at the Interior Department during the 1980s. As Colorado’s Attorney General, Secretary Norton signed a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court that supported undercutting the ESA’s prohibition of actions that damage listed species’ habitat.

Under Secretary Norton's past positions on ESA habitat, the ESA protection for species’ habitat would have been substantially reduced, and as a result, a major cause of decline for native fish and wildlife species would remain unaddressed. However, in her recent testimony, Ms. Norton assured the Senate Committee that she was in favor of the goals of the ESA and would work to uphold the law, even though she had earlier opposed a key element of it.

"Gale Norton was asked if she would uphold the law as the Secretary of the Interior and she has pledged to do so. We will hold her to that promise and work with her to do what is necessary to be a steward of America's resources in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt and others," said Gauvin.

Trout Unlimited is the nation's largest trout and salmon conservation group. Its mission is to conserve, protect and restore North American's trout and salmon and their watersheds. TU has 125,000 members nationwide organized in 500 local chapters.

Date: 1/30/2001


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