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and just when we learned to
say your name...
By Tim Findley
|When Montana Governor Marc Racicot emerged in Florida as a leading
spokesman for the Bush campaign, it seemed apparent that the President-elect
had caught on to the idea already held by many in the WestRacicot
seemed perfect for the post of Interior Secretary. And thanks
to the Florida fiasco, even the national press could now pronounce
his name. (Its Ros-coh.)
But Racicot told RANGE last month that he never was offered that job. Instead, when the President-elect asked him to consider the position of U.S. Attorney General, the popular Montana governor was forced to tell Bush he could not accept a federal position when he finishes his term-limited administration this year. His wife and five children had to finally come first, Racicot said. It is time for him to earn for them in the private sector.
Its a disappointment to many westerners who see a crying need
for new leadership in merely recovering from the Babbitt-Clinton
years. But that isnt lost on Racicot, nor, he says, on George
I dont think anyone in the country could ignore the fact that rural areas overwhelmingly supported Governor Bush, Racicot said. Clearly, everyone recognizes that people in the rural West have confidence in the leadership of the President-elect. But its also obvious that its nonpartisan support in many ways. Its issues, and theres no doubt President Bush understands that and will direct the appropriate amount of attention to those issues.
Some numbers to keep in mind:
Bush won in 2,434 counties. Gore won in 677 counties.
Bush carried 30 states. Gore won in 20 states & D.C.
Bush won in areas covering over 2.4 million square miles.
Gore won in regions covering 580,000 square miles.
Racicot, in his exposure to the national press, may have gotten a little too accustomed to sound bite answers, but he has no doubt that the politics of the West especially wont for long dwell on election numbers alone. Only days earlier, Bruce Babbitt, who opened his eight-year term in Interior by vowing to drive our enemies into oblivion, closed it by claiming that those who support a property rights movement in the West are nothing more than anarchists.
I know, said Racicot, and its my full intention even from
the private sector to contribute to this debate, and to vindicate
the imperatives of people in this part of the country with great
passion and dedication. My intent is to work with people who are
involved on the land and who live in the West and to work to bring
about thoughtful resolution to these policy issues.
No anarchist himself nor even the timber industry tool that
Babbitt accused him of being in an insulting national TV outburst
during last summers fires, Racicot, 52, is a lawyerly younger
man with impressive administrative credentials difficult to imagine
as more useful anywhere than they might be in Bushs cabinet.
But Racicot has his mind made up. First of all, I think the election
of this President is going to be profoundly important to the people
of the West, and that the selection of people in Interior, Agriculture,
and the EPA are going to be very, very important to us here.
Just on the issue of forest management alonewe have a system
of forest management in this country that is simply unacceptable,
even to those in the Forest Service who are stewards of these
lands. Weve seen a Forest Service emaciated through contradictory
policies, a lack of budget and inadequate direction given to them
to manage the forests for all their multiple uses. But that alone
will take a concerted effort in the private as well as public
sector to bring about a management regimen that focuses on forest
health. That alone will help everything to fall into place in
the environment, private industry and recreation.
Bushs nomination of former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton
as Secretary of the Interior has Racicots support. But it is
obvious that many conflicts lie ahead in the West, even beginning
with her confirmation by the Senate, and including another looming
challenge to grazing on public lands.
Some of these debates already concluded in minds of many of us
in the West have a tendency to get resurrected, Racicot said.
But this, and frankly all of these debates, ought to focus first
of all on the determination of good, sound science that can draw
the boundaries of what we ought to do in management of our public
lands. That question [grazing] in particular has been examined
many times in the past, and I believe the science in significant
detail indicates that the best management [of the range] clearly
benefits from the stewardship of people involved in agricuture.
The evidence is overwhelmingly plain, even from the National Academy
of Sciences in that regard, that continuing on with management
of our properties in a way that includes grazing is in the best
interests of everybodynot only just in agriculture but to those
involved in stewarding and enjoying those properties in other
Even so, however, there remains uncertainty in the West that President
Bush will devote the attention necessary to contend with an environmental
momentum built up during the Babbitt-Clinton years.
I believe that will be the case, Racicot said. Certainly thats
one of the reasons I became involved in the campaign. There is
every reason to believe there will be careful thought and close
partnership established with people in the West as we go about
making new federal policy in the Bush administration.
Count on your congressional representatives and your governors
and your local elected officials, advises Racicot, and count on
new help from people like him in the private sector. And, though
he doesnt say so, he suggests that the West also count on the
new Presidents memory of those red-colored maps showing where
his real support came from.
Im confident, Racicot said, that we have a new opportunity here to publicly manage our resources in the West.
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