With President-elect Barack Obama reportedly only days away from naming his interior secretary, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson's name remains in the thick of the discussion.

The Oregonian reported Monday that the rumor mill was “humming” that Obama would pick Thompson for interior secretary, while the Associated Press had only Thompson and Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva on its list of candidates for the position. Speculation seems to be mounting, according to a number of papers, that Obama will name his energy and environmental teams by the end of the week.

Thompson's name first came up as a candidate for interior secretary last month, after a pair of California lawmakers and dozens of sportsmen's groups sent letters to the Obama transition team in support of Thompson, and urging his appointment to head the Department of the Interior.

But, the discussion seems to have taken on a markedly different tone this week.

When contacted by the Times-Standard last month, Thompson's office immediately sent out the following statement: “It's an honor to be recognized by the many groups I've worked with over the years, but no one associated with President-elect Obama has contacted me.”

Contacted by the Times-Standard Tuesday, Thompson's office flatly declined to comment for this story.

Some on the far left ideologically also seem to be taking the Thompson talk seriously, as several high-profile political blogs have spent some pages blasting Thompson for not being environmentally friendly enough, and urging Obama to appoint Grijalva.

The interior secretary is tasked with overseeing the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the United States Geological Survey and the National Parks Service.

Thompson backers have been heartened by comments Obama made in a September interview with Field & Stream magazine that his interior secretary probably would be a sportsman or sportswoman.

”I think that having a head of the Department of Interior who doesn't understand hunting and fishing would be a problem,” the magazine quoted Obama as saying.

Thompson is an avid hunter and angler, while Grijalva reportedly isn't. But, according to Washington Post columnist Al Kamen, both congressmen may have fallen off the short list.

” ... buzz over the weekend centered on Interior, with sources saying Obama may be weighing some dark-horse alternatives to the longtime front-runners, Rep. Raul Grijalva and Rep. Mike Thompson,” Kamen wrote in his column, “In the Loop.” “Grijalva faced some hiccups in recent days and fell off the shortlist, said a source close to the transition. Thompson, meanwhile, has been hit by a barrage of environmentalist attacks in recent days for his ties to industry groups and his love of hunting.”

Thompson has also garnered some recent endorsements for the position.

The Karuk Tribe announced its support of Thompson becoming interior secretary Monday, saying the congressman understands how to bring rural conservationists and urban environmentalists together to create a meaningful and protective natural resource policy.

Kick-starting the Thompson candidacy for the position, California Democratic reps. George Miller and Anna Eshoo sent a letter to Obama's administration urging it to consider Thompson for the position.

”Mike Thompson is immensely qualified to be interior secretary,” Miller said in a statement. “He has a strong base of support in conservation, environmental and outdoors community. He is knowledgeable about issues. And he is a person of great integrity and commitment to public service.”

Thompson, 57, won re-election in November and will start his sixth term in January. He serves on the Ways and Means Committee and chairs the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Human Intelligence, Analysis and Counterintelligence. He also co-founded the Wine Caucus when he arrived in Congress in 1999.

Thompson won national publicity back in 2005, after holding a press conference at the Department of Interior and dumping more than 500 pounds of dead salmon on its steps to protest low waters in the Klamath River.

According to the California Secretary of State's Office, if Thompson were appointed to any position in Obama's cabinet, the governor would call a special election in California's 1st Congressional District to fill his seat.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com


Karuk Tribe Supports Rep. Mike Thompson for Interior Secretary
by Dan Bacher, Indybay, 12/8/08

The Karuk Tribe of northern California today joined a broad coalition of fishing, hunting and conservation groups throughout the nation in urging President-Elect Barrack Obama to appoint Representative Mike Thompson as the next Secretary of Interior.

Karuk Tribe Joins with Conservation Groups in Supporting Thompson for Interior Secretary

by Dan Bacher

The Karuk Tribe of northern California today joined a broad coalition of fishing, hunting and conservation groups throughout the nation in urging President-Elect Barrack Obama to appoint Representative Mike Thompson as the next Secretary of Interior.

Political insiders are expecting Obama to make a decision this week regarding his choice for the next Secretary of Interior. Although a number of possible contenders for the Interior position have circulated through the rumor mill, the two leading candidates for the position to date are Thompson and Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).

"Congressman Thompson is a lifelong outdoorsman who understands how to bring rural conservationists and urban environmentalists together to create meaningful and protective natural resource policy," said Tribal Chairman Arch Super. "Congressman Thompson has been a leader on local resource issues in his district working diligently to protect salmon and watersheds that are of cultural and spiritual import to the Karuk Tribe."

Super noted that Thompson has been broadly recognized as a leader outside his district as well, receiving national recognition for his achievements from both environmental and sportsman’s groups. He is unique among Congressmen in receiving both the Sierra Club’s prestigious Edgar Wayburn Award for environmental protection and the legislator of the year award by Safari Club International.

"The Congressman forever endeared himself to members of the Karuk Tribe in 2002 when the Klamath River fish kill left nearly 70,000 adult salmon on the banks of the Klamath River," said Super. "Congressman Thompson made this horrific event an issue of national importance by flying carcasses of these fish back to D.C. to present to his fellow lawmakers as evidence of failed federal policy in the Klamath Basin. With such bold action, Congressman Thompson has illustrated his great devotion to conserving America’s natural resources."

Ducks Unlimited, the American Sportfishing Association, Bass Pro Shops and 29 other national sportsmen's groups are urging Obama to appoint Rep. Thompson as the new Interior Secretary. Besides earning high marks from both sportsmen's and environmental groups, Thompson this year played a key leadership role in obtaining disaster relief for recreational and commercial fishermen and related businesses devastated by the closure of salmon fishing in ocean waters off California and Oregon and in Central Valley rivers this year, due to the collapse of the Sacramento River fall chinook population.

"You have been forthright in your commitment to sportsmen and making their priorities a centerpiece of your land and water conservation agenda," they stated in a letter sent to Obama and his transition team on November 19. "As you review candidates for secretary of the US Department of the Interior, we hope that you will strongly consider Congressman Thompson for this important post."

The Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations (PCFFA), the largest commercial fishing organization on the West Coast, is also strongly supporting Thompson for Secretary.

"We cannot recommend Mr. Thompson highly enough," said Zeke Grader, the PCFFA's executive director, in a letter to Obama on November 24. "We have had the opportunity to work with him for two decades, in both the California Legislature and the U.S. Congress. He is a passionate, thoughtful, intelligent and extremely hard-working individual."

Grader said Thompson would bring to the Department of the Interior "a wealth of knowledge" about water, coastal and marine, lands and recreational issues, as well as having a "long and good working relationship" with the Native American governments in his area.

In addition, California Representatives George Miller, author of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA), and Anna Eshoo recently sent a letter to Obama supporting the appointment of Thompson for Interior Secretary.

Meanwhile, another coalition of conservation organizations is building support behind naming Congressman Raúl Grijalva as the next Secretary of the Interior, according to a support letter from more than 78 groups sent to President-elect Obama and released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Rep. Grijalva now chairs the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands that has jurisdiction over Interior Department matters.

The 106 groups who signed this latest letter, based in states ranging from New York and Virginia to Colorado and California, represent some of the growing support for Grijalva spanning wildlife, land protection and good government groups, as well as among Congressional colleagues, including Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) who chairs the Natural Resources Committee. Scientists, Indian Tribes and Latino organizations are also backing Grijalva.

Among the pluses highlighted in the support letter is that Rep. Grijalva has "a depth and breadth of experience in complex natural resource issues at federal, state, tribal and county levels." In particular, the letter praised Grijalva for assembling what is regarded as one of the most "far-sighted endangered species protection plans in the nation" that minimized the need for litigation that has plagued Interior.

The letter also praised the Congressman for "expertise in drought management, a growing condition in the parched West" and "leadership in pressing Interior and other federal agencies to integrate global warming issues into their planning and permitting."

"Representative Grijalva is widely respected, with excellent state and local relations, and a proven record of fairness, ethics and conservation," stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, who is a newly elected Arizona State Representative who formerly worked with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which controls the most acreage of any Interior agency. "Congressman Grijalva understands wildlife and outdoors issues, as well as energy, water, tribes and natural resources management."

However, Thompson appears to be the more likely candidate for Obama's choice for the Interior post, based on an interview that Field and Stream magazine conducted with Obama in September. Obama then said that he would probably appoint a sportsman or sportswoman to be the Secretary of Interior, as well as creating a “sportsmen’s committee” that advises Interior and other agencies.

“I think that having a head of the Department of Interior who doesn't understand hunting and fishing would be a problem,” Obama said. “And so my suspicion is that whoever heads up the Department of Interior is probably going to be a sportsman or sportswoman.”

While both Thompson and Grijalva have impressive environmental credentials, Thompson is a hunter and angler while Grivalva isn't. This fact could be a key factor in determining whether Thompson, Grijalva or somebody else becomes the next Interior Secretary.