Dems Fight For Natural Resources Appointment

Lane County enviros and liberal politicos want Congressman Peter DeFazio to know that they aren’t pleased with his green credentials lately. They have signed on to a letter to Nancy Pelosi endorsing Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) as the next ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources. About 200 environmental and conservation groups from across the country signed the letter. Local signatories include Cascadia Wildlands, Forest Web of Cottage Grove, Forestland Dwellers and several former county commissioners — Rob Handy, Bill Fleenor and Jerry Rust, as well as former congressman Jim Weaver. The League of United Latin American Citizens has also endorsed Grijalva for the position.

Whoever takes the ranking member position gains a greater influence over public lands, including the federal O&C forestlands that generate money for counties and have long been a source of contention by conservation groups versus timber interests. Both sides of the debate have criticized DeFazio’s forest plan, which calls for splitting the lands between logging and conservation.

The House Resources spot opened up because Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) recently won a special U.S. Senate race against Republican Gabriel Gomez.

The letter cites Grijalva’s “vision, courage and collaborative ability to provide strong leadership on natural resource issues,” specifically pointing to his work on mining, the Keystone XL and offshore drilling. This isn’t the first time the greener side has endorsed Grijalva; back in December, Cascadia Wildlands and more than 200 other groups also signed on to a letter calling for Grijalva to be appointed as interior secretary. That position went to former REI executive Sally Jewell.

While the letter never mentions DeFazio, the signatories have pointed to his forest plan as a key reason for their endorsement of Grijalva. Handy says that in contrast to Grijalva’s stands on natural resource issues such as the Keystone, “What’s DeFazio’s priority? Giving away our public forests  — the sources of our drinking water — to be plundered and poisoned by timber barons.” He adds, “DeFazio’s O&C proposal is a solution in search of a problem.”

On the other hand, DeFazio has been endorsed by more than 25 progressive Democrats, including Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici. In their letter to fellow Dems, they called DeFazio a “leader on sustainable forestry, clean energy, sustainable fishing, mining reform, protecting the right of sovereign nations, protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, blocking the Keystone pipeline, protecting NEPA and the Endangered Species Act, and fighting for sensible climate change action.”

Grijalva received a score of 97 percent on the 2012 League of Conservation Voters congressional scorecard. DeFazio got a score of 86 percent.