FROM THE ARCHIVE
Industry insider named to Interior
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MARCH 30, 2001

An Idaho lawyer who has frequently challenged the Department of Interior on behalf of private industry was named the agency's top legal counsel by President George W. Bush on Thursday.

William G. Myers once called grazing regulations for livestock unlawful, critical habitat designations for threatened birds unconstitutional, and protections for endangered fish overreaching. Should he be confirmed as Solicitor, Myers will soon be providing legal advice to his department when faced with similar challenges.

Like his potential boss Gale Norton, Myers isn't a stranger to Washington, DC. During the Bush administration, he served as Deputy General Counsel for Programs Department of Energy and Assistant to the Attorney General at the Department of Justice.

And like Norton, Myers is well known in the private sector. As an advocate for the interests of cattle farmers and ranchers throughout the country, he served as executive director for the Public Lands Council and as director of federal lands for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

But the pair have more in common. He too sided against the Interior in the controversial Sweet Home case challenging the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Both argued separately that the Interior overstepped the boundaries of the law, which makes it a crime to harm endangered or threatened species.

On behalf of the cattle industry, Myers said the Interior couldn't go a step further and protect the habitats of plants and animals as it has done since 1975. In fighting the challenge from private landowners and timber companies, former Secretary Bruce Babbitt argued that such designations were an essential component of species protection.

In 1995, the Supreme Court agreed with the government, to the joy of environmentalists. But the ruling didn't stop Myers from siding against his potential future employer and in 1997, he championed a Supreme Court decision which allowed farmers in Oregon to challenge the Interior's attempt to protect two endangered species of fish in the Klamath River Basin.

Myers' past positions probably aren't as important as his future ones, though. He'd be entering a department where the last-minute decisions made during the Clinton administration, including those of his predecessor John Leshy, are being heavily scrutinized.

The Republican members of New Mexico's Congressional delegation, Senator Pete Domenici and Representative Heather Wilson, have asked Norton to invalidate an opinion Leshy authored on his final day in office. Siding with Sandia Pueblo, Leshy said the tribe had been deprived of 10,000 acres of land considered sacred for more than 100 years.

Myers would also be stepping into the department's ongoing trust fund debacle. The plaintiffs in the billion dollar class-action suit had targeted Leshy for being in contempt of court but could end up putting Myers in the hot seat quickly.

Myers was contacted at the Holland & Hart law firm in Boise, Idaho, but was unavailable for comment yesterday.

WILLIAM G. MYERS III:
Age: 46
Education: A.B., College of William and Mary, 1977
J.D., University of Denver, 1981
Legislative Counsel, former Senator Alan Simpson (Wyo.): 1985-1989
Assistant to the Attorney General,Department of Justice: 1989 to 1992
Deputy General Counsel for Programs, Department of Energy: 1992 to 1993
Former Executive Director of the Public Lands Council
Former Director of Federal Lands for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association
Currently: Attorney, Holland & Hart, Boise, Idaho

Relevant Links:
Office of the Solicitor, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/sol
Holland & Hart - http://www.hollandhart.com

Related Stories:
BIA candidate raked in dough (Politics 3/12)
Energy pal named to Interior post (Politics 3/9)
GOP dark horse appears BIA favorite (Politics 2/7)

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