Mr. Magoo Goes to Washington

by Chuck Pezeshki In these last, decaying days of the Bush Administration, yet another of Idaho’s adopted own is being called back to in Washington. Jim Caswell, head of Idaho’s Office of Species of Conservation, has been tapped by his buddy, Dirk Kempthorne, former governor of Idaho, and now Secretary of the Interior, to be the head of the Bureau of Land Management. I’ve read the press on Caswell’s potential appointment. Most of it consists of the usual homilies given for any political appointee that hasn’t killed their mother—“grudging respect” and whatnot. But having extensive experience with Jim, when I was most active in forest politics, I thought I’d clue the rest of folks in on what Jim is all about. As far as an action player, Jim ain’t much. He came to the Clearwater NF in 1993, in the aftermath of the firing scandal of famous fish biologist, Al Espinosa, the man who pretty much shut down the Big Green Timber Machine from the inside the agency. After his arrival, he presided over the wholesale collapse of the road network in much of the Clearwater during the storm season of 1994-1995. Because of his bungling and misplaced priorities—his main focus was reopening the roads so the clearcuts could keep getting made, instead of realizing the reason for the collapsing network was because of the same clearcuts—he, more than anyone, probably paved the way for the 1998 nationwide National Forest roadbuilding moratorium, which directly led to Clinton’s Roadless Initiative. When the rulemaking process started, Jim led the renegade Supervisor attack on the Roadless plan, a rebellion that went nowhere. Even in his previous job as Supervisor of the Targhee NF, he didn’t do anything except bungle his press and desperately try to keep whatever destructive agenda moving along until completion. The previous Supervisor on the Targhee, John Burns, had rightfully owned the title, “The Butcher of the Targhee,” for cutting clearcuts up to the border of Yellowstone NP that were so huge, they were visible from space. Jim took the job, and got ground to dust by the activist community in southern Idaho. And even in his post-Clearwater years, he didn’t do much. After retiring from the Forest Service with that nice, fat government pension, he went to Boise to start Idaho’s attempt at Orwellian government agencies—the Office of Species Conservation. The job of the OSC was to keep species off the Endangered Species list through political machinations. I’m still trying to figure out what the OSC has actually accomplished, besides covering up for Butch Otter’s bad foot-in-mouth disease regarding wolves and such. Now, Jim spouts the same dysfunctional platitudes to the papers that he has his whole career. They sound good on the surface. He’s a big on self-sufficiency, timber, oil and other natural resources. But his plans are the same old stuff—don’t curb demand of anything, and use it up until it’s all used up. If anything, Jim’s appointment to the BLM is proof of the Idaho Synergistic Stooge Effect. Idaho’s a small state, and full of legislators and government types that love to repeat the same nonsense to each other until they all believe it’s true. Don’t worry about facts getting in the way of belief. It’s all about whatever the governing is at the moment. But here’s a little advice, Jim, before you score that recess appointment that will get you appointed without any Senatorial scrutiny. You’re not going to get anything done. And any bump you get in your pension by joining the Senior Executive Service ain’t gonna be worth it. Because up here in the Inland Empire, when it comes to corruption, we’re bush leaguers. Take a look at what happened to Mike Price, when he left WSU to go to a place where football really matters—Alabama. Those Southerners play dirty ball, for keeps. And the way things are going, the current crop in D.C. are going to end up spending their Golden Years in jail. And no amount of extra pension money is going to make up for the fact that you could end up behind bars with the rest of them.