Judging by the knee-jerk reaction of some environmentalists, the Trump administration has chosen well in Karen Budd-Falen, its new deputy solicitor for fish, wildlife and parks within the Department of the Interior.
“Her appointment to this position is abysmal for the protection of wildlife, respect for sacred tribal lands and conservation of wild places that Interior is supposed to safeguard,” the Wilderness Society’s lawyer, Nada Culver, said in a press release.
Culver tries to paint Budd-Falen with a broad brush that includes the Bundy family, whom she represented along with other ranchers in 1989 in a case involving the Mojave desert tortoise, an endangered species. The fact that 27 years later the Bundys participated in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge debacle is laid at Budd-Falen’s feet. It “calls into serious question whether she can be trusted to apply the law on behalf of the Department of the Interior,” Culver said.
Let’s clarify what Budd-Falen has done for a living for the past three decades. She is a lawyer. It is her job to represent her clients to the best of her ability, no matter what side of an issue they are on. The fact that the Wilderness Society doesn’t like that she has represented ranchers in disputes with environmental groups and the federal government apparently is enough to give them a massive case of heartburn. We infer from the Wilderness Society’s statements that if Budd-Falen had represented environmental groups instead of ranchers she would get both a medal and a ringing endorsement.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look at the Department of the Interior. Among the nine bureaus within the department are the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The BLM is the landlord for 247.3 million federally owned acres, most of it in the West. That means anyone living in the rural West — ranchers, for example — will have to meet the demands of the BLM. Budd-Falen will know the issues backward and forward and be able to weigh all sides and make a fair-minded assessment that follows the law. No one could ask any more, or less, of a person in that position.
The Bureau of Reclamation operates or shares responsibility for the water works of the West, including rivers and reservoirs. Think the Klamath Basin, the Columbia River, the Colorado River, the Snake River and scores of reservoirs that supply water for irrigation and other uses. The importance of water in the West cannot be overstated. Having a person who understands that, and how water laws work, will benefit all westerners, even environmentalists.
Then there’s the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Among its responsibilities is the Endangered Species Act, a law that promotes the shuffling of paper and the filing of lawsuits by environmental groups as much as protecting endangered and threatened species. Budd-Falen has tracked the ESA, its uses and abuses, and has a thorough understanding of its strengths and weaknesses, and how to improve it.
As an a private attorney, an attorney with the Mountain States Legal Foundation and as a special assistant within the Interior Department during the Reagan administration, Budd-Falen has developed an encyclopedic knowledge of land and water management issues in the West. As deputy solicitor for fish, wildlife and parks within the Department of the Interior, she will be uniquely able to apply that knowledge to high-level decisions that will impact nearly every farmer and rancher in the West.
We can think of no one better for the job.