Apparently, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is under serious consideration by President-elect Donald Trump to be his Secretary of the Department of the Interior.
He is not the only candidate.
Other names circulating are Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, House National Resources Chair Rob Bishop (R-Utah), former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, outgoing U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming) and venture capitalist Robert Grady (he served in the first Bush administration in the Office of Management and Budget).
Otter, with his wife Lori, was the chair of Trump’s general election effort in Idaho. His appointment would put an Idahoan in charge of the Department of Interior for the third time since 1976 when former Gov. Cecil Andrus was appointed by President Jimmy Carter. Former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne served in the position under President George W. Bush beginning in 2006.
In total, the Department of Interior oversees more than 500 million acres of federal ground and more than 67,000 employees.
The secretary is in charge of a wide variety of agencies.
The Bureau of Reclamation builds and maintains a great number of federal dams, many in Idaho. The National Park Service runs the national parks, from Yellowstone to Yosemite to Arches. The Bureau of Land Management handles a broad array of public lands throughout the western United States, including vast swaths in Southern Idaho.
Other parts of the department include the U.S. Geologic Survey and the Office of Surface Mining which evaluate U.S. geologic resources and manage those on federal land. Another key piece is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service which protects wildlife resources in the nation’s waterways, in the air, and on the ground.
The relatively new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement deals with resources on the continental shelves offshore. And, of particular interest in Idaho, is the Bureau of Indian Affairs which manages federal relationships with 562 federally-recognized Indian tribes.
An Otter appointment would likely draw fierce opposition from environmental groups. But, his opposition could be less than for someone like Gov. Fallin (closely tied to the oil & gas industry) or Rob Bishop (a fierce opponent of many of the advocacy groups) or many of the others. In his favor is also a less incendiary style than some possible names and a record of executive management of the State of Idaho.
If Otter takes the slot, expect a significant shakeup of Idaho’s political scene. Lieutenant Governor Brad Little would ascend to the governor’s chair, likely making him a stronger contender for the seat in 2018 against former State Sen. Russ Fulcher. If that happens, does Congressman Raul Labrador wave off the race?
If Little steps up, watch who is appointed to fill his position. A considerable number of candidates are looking to run for Little’s current position. His choice will give someone the inside track to hold the position in 2018. Idaho’s lieutenant governors have a pretty good track record of stepping up to higher office.