Boise, ID - Martha Hahn, the Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Idaho resigned today rather than accept an involuntary transfer to a National Park Service appointment in New York. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) has long sought Hahn's removal and convinced top Interior officials to make the move, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
This January, Interior Deputy Secretary Steven Griles, a former lobbyist occupying the number two spot below Secretary Gale Norton, officially notified Hahn of her removal. The notice directed her to assume a heretofore non-existent post as Executive Director of the National Park Service New York Harbor operations.
Despite requirements that senior employees be consulted and, if possible, accommodated on choice of any new assignment outside of their geographic area, Hahn was not consulted or given a range of options. The only alternative to the NY Harbor posting offered to Hahn was resignation. Accordingly, today Martha Hahn tendered her resignation from federal service.
U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) has made no secret of his efforts to remove Hahn. Most recently, Craig denounced BLM's decision to restrict grazing in Owyhee County, calling the BLM action "an affront" that he would try to reverse in Washington, DC. Since the 2000 election, Sen. Craig has new influence within Interior. For example, Tom Fulton, the Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary for Lands & Minerals Management that oversees BLM, is a former Craig campaign manager.
Martha Hahn has been BLM Idaho Director for the past seven years. As the highest-ranking BLM official in Idaho, the BLM State Director position is one of the top line management positions within the agency.
Hahn's ouster is one of a series of recent high-profile removals of BLM managers targeted by grazing, ORV and mining interests. During the Clinton Administration, agency directors within Interior had lead decision-making authority in personnel moves. Thus far, in the Bush Administration, Interior Secretary Norton and her top aides have played the dominant role.
"Martha Hahn's removal is part of an unfolding purge of principled professionals within the top ranks of Interior," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "The message is not subtle: any federal manager in Idaho who displeases a crony of Larry Craig risks a similar fate."
Steven West, an official with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, has told associates that he is slated to replace Hahn. While the BLM Idaho post does not require Senate confirmation, it is widely expected that Sen. Craig will be allowed to choose Hahn's successor.
Noting that little more than a month ago, Idaho Fish & Game Director Rod Sando also resigned under pressure, reportedly from Governor Dirk Kempthorne, Ruch commented, "In Idaho, natural resource management has degenerated into a naked spoils system."