Posts Tagged ‘Obama And The Environment’

Native American Nations Divided Over Possible Obama Interior Department Candidates

December 10, 2008

Discussion and debate around who the Obama Administration should appoint to lead the Department of the Interior (DOI) reveals divisions among the tribal nations sharing land with the United States. Tribal nations and tribal leaders are divided among 3 candidates rumored to be under discussion by the Obama transition team to lead the DOI, which manages relationships with and programs targeting the country’s Native American nations: Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Congressman Mike Thomspson (D-CA) and the most recent entry, museum director and former Clinton Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Kevin Gover, who is also a member of the Pawnee Nation.

While recent rumors of a possible Gover DOI appointment have created a buzz in certain sectors of the Native American community, these rumors have also exposed deep rooted divisions among and conflict between tribal nations-and between the tribal nations and the U.S. government. The Karuk Tribe of northern California has come out strongly in support of Thompson and Grijalva has the support of more than 7 tribes, including Tohono O’odham nation, the Hopis and the Navajo nation, the country’s largest tribe with over 300,000 members. A possible Gover candidacy will likely bring him considerable Native American support – and at least some Native American opposition.

A judge in a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of Native Americans against the DOI filed during the Clinton Administration, found Gover in civil contempt of court for failing to produce documents and for deceiving the court about the DOI and Bureau of Indian Affairs management of Indian trusts (the judge was later removed from the case.) The lawsuit alleged that the Bureau of Indian Affairs lost millions of dollars owed to hundreds of thousands of American Indians as part of treaty obligations assumed by the United States . The 1996 case involving Gover, Cobell v Kempthorne, has never been settled, but Elouise Cobell, a member of Montana’s Blackfeet tribe and the lead plaintiff in the suit, still opposed Gover’s appointment as head of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian for his role in what she considers the mismanagement of the trusts.

During a video speech delivered in October to a national gathering of tribal nations and their leaders, President-elect Obama promised to “end nearly a century of mismanagement of Indian Trusts” and “to settle unresolved cases” between the U.S. government and Indian nations. To watch the full video, just click below:

Source: Obama “Hasn’t Met With Interior Candidate Yet. Grijalva is Still in the Running”

December 9, 2008

This just in on the Interior Secretary appointment: sources close to the transition say that there is still no final decision and that Obama has not met with anyone in Chicago for the position yet. The source stated that Obama “”Hasn’t Met With Interior Candidate yet” and added that “Grijalva is still in the running.”

Again, these are only rumors from a source that should know. Regardless, it does appear that there may have been a slowdown and new movement as the heat against the many rumored to be the favored candidate over the weekend, Blue Dog Democrat Mike Thompson, has gone up several notches on Daily Kos, Chris Mathews, Huffington Post, to name a few. Vociferous denunciations of Thompson are accompanied by enthusiastic praise of Grijalva, who also got a major dose of support for his appointment from more than 100 environmental organizations located throughout the country.

Rumors are also floating that both Thompson and Grijalva have fallen out of favor and that a new candidate, Kevin Gover, the current director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, is now under serious consideration.

Obama was expected to announce the environmental energy appointments wither Wednesday of Thursday. Will be interesting to see if this happens. more to follow soon.

Obama Rumored to Be Leaning Toward Pro-Hunter, Pro-Logging Democrat to Lead Interior Department

December 7, 2008

A source close to the Obama transition team just told me that “(Congressman Raul) Grijalva fell out of favor and they are now looking at Mike Thompson” for the job of Interior Secretary. The source also told me that the likely decision will take place in the next 36 hours and has “the DC environmental groups in a frenzy over the latest leaks out of the transition team.”

While these are only just rumors, this information should at the very least make us look more closely at how Congressman Mike Thompson’s record fits President-elect Obama’s promise to bring hope and change to the over 500 million acres of surface land and over 1.7 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf that fall under the purview of the Secretary of the Interior job Grijalva and Thompson are being considered for.

The measure of change and hope in the work of the Department of the Interior begins with reducing the disproportionate influence of the big hunting, big logging, big oil and other big corporate interests whose big money defined and still define the deadly and devastating land management policies of the Bush Administration.

A look at NRA member and Blue Dog Democrat Mike Thompson’s financial and voting records reveals a less-than progressive position with regard to important issues the next DOI Secretary will be dealing with.

Environmental groups are especially concerned, for example, that, among Thompson’s biggest contributors ($20,676) is Safari Club International, a global organization that whose primary mission includes lobbying for the right of trophy hunters to hunt as many species as possible, regardless of their endangered status. Earlier this year, Thompson was awarded SCI’s Federal Legislator of the Year award for his votes on several pieces of legislation, inclding a bill that allows hunters in the United States to continue importing the heads and hides of polar bears killed in Canada. The vote prompted condemnation of animal rights groups and even moved the Bush Administration to place the polar bear on the “threatened species” list under the Endangered Species Act.

Another one of Thompson’s biggest contributors (over $17,000) is Koch (pronounced “coke”) Industries, the largest privately held company in the US specializing in oil and natural resources. The logging units the mega-conglomorate Koch, which earned more than $110 billion in revenue last year, has reaped especially handsome profits from legislation that Thompson has voted in favor of including the Bush Administration’s “Healthy Forest Initiative as well as his votes opening the Tongass Forest and other public lands under DOI management to logging. All prominent California Democrats and Democrats from state’s with some of the largest public land holdings and national forests, inclduing Washington and Oregon, voted against the Healthy Forests Initiative. This bill reaped enormous profits for Koch Industries.

Grijalva Appointment to Interior Department Would Bring Ecological-and Political- Balance to Obama Cabinet

December 6, 2008

AlterNet

Anyone who has visited a national park or traversed the country’s diverse wilderness comes home with gorgeous, yet distressing images of it; those returning from a visit to one of the more than 562 tribes the federal government recognizes and is supposed to assist also bring back sad stories about it; and those of us who enjoy camping or fishing or hunting inevitably return home talking about it. “It” is the scenery and life found on the millions of acres of federal land left blemished and vulnerable by Bush Administration’s Department of the Interior (DOI).

As urbanization, economic restructuring and the insatiable lust for land and natural resources continue to threaten the still-astonishingly beautiful and rich land of this country, we should all care about whom President-elect Obama chooses to lead the DOI. The urgency of these issues came home twice this week as the Bush Administration delivered two parting gifts to big mining interests by rescinding two important regulations — one requiring the DOI to prevent mining companies from dumping waste near public streams and another protecting federal land near the Grand Canyon from mining and oil and gas development.

In order to deal with such challenges to the land and people under the purview of the Department, which is charged with managing most federally-owned land as well as with managing relationships with Native American peoples, the Obama Administration must appoint someone with the experience, expertise and political sophistication to lead nothing less than a New Deal for the land and people our government deals with.

Of all the candidates being vetted by the Obama transition team for this complex and challenging responsibility, none can match the unique qualifications of Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). Grijalva, who was the leading voice denouncing this week’s most recent giveaway to mining companies by the Bush Administration, will bring urgently needed balance and poise to a federal land management bureaucracy that has pushed we the people into dangerous disequilibrium with the land we live on- and love. Appointing Grijalva, who was elected Co-Chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus, will also bring more and much-needed political balance to the Obama cabinet than some of the Republican-lite Democrats also being considered for the DOI post like California Blue Dog Democrat, Mike Thompson.

Like almost all of the previous Secretaries of the Interior, Grijalva hails from the West, more specifically Arizona, where his 7th Congressional district seat has provided him with the kind of experience and leadership we will need in a DOI Secretary.

Grijalva’s willingness to reverse the values and practices instituted by the Bush Administration’s Department of the Interior are well-illustrated by his leadership of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee of the 110th Congress. Most recently, he spearheaded efforts to stop the planned re-mining of the Black Mesa, located in northern Arizona. In a recent letter to current DOI Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Grijalva called on the Bush Administration to restore some semblance of the natural balance between the diverse interests DOI must manage: “Mining at Black Mesa has caused springs on Hopi lands to dry up and jeopardized the sole source of drinking water for many Hopis and Navajos.”

This same will to balance informs the National Landscape Conservation System, and the Environment Congressional Task Force Co-Chair Grijalva’s efforts to craft urgently needed legislation to reform the very outdated General Mining Law of 1872. Environmentalists, scientists and other advocates believe this law must be changed if the wilderness of the west and of our national parks, forests and public lands systems are to return to sustainability. Such actions have secured very strong support for Grijalva’s DOI bid from environmental, scientific and other groups, including the National Conservation Association, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees and the U.S. Humane Society, to name a few. A letter to President-elect Obama in support of Grijalva was signed by more than 50 prominent scholars specializing in biology, conservation and other disciplines. In the letter, the scholars called him a “broad thinker” and praised the Congressman’s “Report on the Bush Administration Assault on Our National Parks, Forests and Public Lands” as the work of “someone who understands and values science.”

No less effusive are the statements of support Grijalva is receiving from Native American leaders like Ned Norris, who as tribal Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation-one of 7 tribes in Grijalva’s district- says he has “enjoyed an extensive and extremely positive relationship with the Congressman for many years.” Asked what appeals most to tribes like his about a possibility of a Grijalva-led DOI, Norris answered “He has a deep understanding of and respect for relationship between tribes and U.S. government.” Norris also pointed to the Congressman’s sophistication and success in settling a 30 year-old water and resource dispute between the Tahono O’odham tribe and the federal government.

In his efforts to foster change and hope with regard to both the stewardship of federal land and the management of relations with Indian nations, President-elect Obama will bring urgency and much-needed balance to these important government functions by appointing Congressman Raul Grijalva Secretary of the Interior.


This piece was first published on Alternet.org