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Obama misfiles expert

Published on July 1, 2011 3:01AM

Last changed on July 29, 2011 7:38AM


If President Barack Obama were to look for the perfect person to lead the National Park Service, he couldn't do better than Rebecca Wodder.

Wodder is president of the environmental group American Rivers and worked 13 years for the Wilderness Society, another environmental group. Before that, she was a staffer for U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis., during President Jimmy Carter's successful efforts to lock up millions of acres of Alaska as parks and preserves.

The Idaho Water Users Association also points out that American Rivers under Wodder has called for removing four dams on the Snake River.

In those positions, she has advocated all things green. As head of the park service, whose job is preserving America's most important wilderness and historical areas, that would be right up her alley.

Unfortunately, the president did not choose Wodder to head just the park service. He chose her to be assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks at the U.S. Department of the Interior. That would also put her in charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead agency in many cases involving the troubled and difficult-to-enforce Endangered Species Act. Environmental groups such as American Rivers and the Wilderness Society line up to sue the agency over all sorts of issues related to the ESA.

In her new role, Wodder will be forced to defend the agency against the tidal wave of lawsuits that environmental groups -- like her former employers -- file. That's a mighty tall order for anybody, much less someone who finds herself at the negotiating table with her friends and former colleagues.

Who the USFWS needs at the helm is a hard-nosed scientist who can interpret and understand the complicated cases and make tough, science-based determinations of the correct things to do.

Judging by Wodder's background, the president got this appointment only half right.


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