When it comes to the land this state so cherishes, Colorado is going to have strong representation in the Obama administration. Thursday, the president named Harris Sherman to be under secretary of Natural Resources and the Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
That job is important to Colorado in that the person holding it oversees this country's national forests. And with former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar now secretary of the Interior, and therefore in charge of the Bureau of Land Management, all of this state's federal lands will be supervised by native sons.
Sherman has an extensive résumé, all of which is on target for his new job. He has had a long career in Colorado government and now is director of the state's Department of Natural Resources, a position he also held under Gov. Richard Lamm.
As director of the DNR, Sherman supervises state programs dealing with energy, water, wildlife, parks and state lands. He also is chairman of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and director of compact negotiation for the Colorado Interbasin Compact Commission.
Sherman also is a member of several other state commissions, boards and advisory councils concerned with water, wildlife and forests. And in between all that, he was managing and senior partner at a law firm that focused on natural resources, environmental and Native American law.
He also comes well-recommended. Matt Garrington, field director for Environment Colorado - a group whose name pretty well explains where it is coming from - immediately issued a statement describing Sherman in glowing terms.
"Harris Sherman," he wrote, "is a stalwart conservationist and an excellent pick. ... Sherman has spent a lifetime working to conserve open spaces, wildlife habitat and Colorado's precious water resources."
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar seems to concur. His news release on Sherman being named said, "In the many years I have worked with Harris Sherman, I have known him to be a top-notch public servant, a champion for Colorado's land, water and wildlife and a problem-solver. President Obama and (Agriculture) Secretary Vilsack have made a terrific choice in nominating him to serve our country as under secretary for Natural Resources and Environment."
That is more important, for while critics may dismiss Denver-based environmental activists as extremists or single-issue advocates, that argument cannot be made against Salazar. From a farming family in the San Luis Valley - and brother to U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, who still farms there - Sen. Salazar is no wild-eyed radical. If he says Sherman is a "champion" for Colorado's resources and a "problem-solver," he is not describing someone from EarthFirst!, but rather a man pragmatic enough to get things done.
And that is what the position calls for. Both the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service answer to the under secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. As such, Sherman will have a major say in issues and agencies crucial to Colorado. And in the Forest Service he also will oversee an organization that must work closely with Salazar's Interior Department by way of the BLM.
The relationship between those agencies only can have been helped by picking a man Salazar admires and, perhaps more to the point, one who knows and loves the land. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet should work to speed his Senate confirmation.