Norton Confirmation Good News for Western Lands

Washington, D.C., January 30, 2001 – “The confirmation of Gale Norton offers the nation an opportunity to rethink and reformulate environmental policy,” said Dr. David Riggs, Director of Land and Natural Resource Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.  “The process of federal lands management has created more and more gridlock on public lands and trouble for private lands. Secretary Norton will hopefully bring a sense of stewardship and a practical, result-oriented attitude toward protecting these resources.” 

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Despite facing contentious Senate hearings, today’s confirmation of Gale Norton as Secretary of the Interior is good news for both the western lands that are now under her administration and the rural westerners who live among them. Secretary Norton’s experience and accomplishments point toward a revitalized national forest system and a possible end to the animosity that has arisen between residents of western states and the last administration’s federal lands managers.


Secretary Norton’s record of advocating innovative, market-based solutions to land management problems had angered some interest groups who regarded an expansive federal bureaucracy as the only way to advance environmental quality.  Her practical achievements, however, run counter to such criticisms. “Ms. Norton has overseen successes in cleaning up toxic waste, conserving wilderness, and aggressively enforcing environmental laws,” continued Dr. Riggs. “She has also worked with businesses in her home state of Colorado to achieve the highest levels of environmental quality with minimal resources spent on lawsuits and paperwork.”


One of Secretary Norton’s most important tasks as she takes over Interior will be the alarming state of national forests, which have suffered from decades of mismanagement and are still recovering from the severe wildfires of last summer. The policy of opposing any timber removal or road construction has led to a tinderbox effect that has been disastrous for forests, expensive for taxpayers, and dangerous for firefighters.  A sound philosophy that incorporates a conservation ethic with active management could become Ms. Norton’s most lasting legacy.



CEI, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group founded in 1984, is dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. For more information, please contact Richard Morrison, associate director of media relations, at [email protected] or 202-331-1010, ext. 266.