FEBRUARY 3, 1998

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee: Many people who go through the nomination process before this Committee state how honored and humbled they feel to be nominated for higher office by the President. No matter how frequently you may have heard this statement from other nominees, it nevertheless is true.

To be nominated as the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks is the greatest honor I have been accorded in a long career of public service. It is also the greatest challenge and responsibility I have been asked to carry since arriving in Washington 23 years ago. I would like to express my deepest thanks to President Clinton and Secretary Babbitt for placing their confidence and trust in my ability to fulfill the responsibilities of Assistant Secretary.

When I reflect back upon the major forces or influences in my life that have helped bring me before you today, three things stand out in importance.

Best and foremost, has been the influence of my parents. Highly educated and completely devoted to each other and the four children that they raised, my parents taught me the Importance of many things in fife, including the need for honesty and ethics in dealing with people, the virtue of hard work and doing your best, and the value of public service. My parents also instilled in me at an early age a deep appreciation for the outdoors and the beauty of nature. Whether it was camping in Colorado, rock collecting in the Dakotas, bird watching in Wisconsin, or canoeing in Minnesota's Boundary Waters, our family outdoor summer vacations stimulated my earliest thinking about a career in conservation. I admire my parents for many, many things, but most of all, I admire - and thank them - for instilling in me a life-long love of the natural areas of this country, of wild things and wild places.

The second major influence in my life was growing up in a small town in rural America. A former Congressman once lamented that the biggest problem with Washington, D.C. was that people stayed here too long, and ended up confusing themselves with the rest of the monuments. Although I have lived in Washington, D.C. for almost a quarter of a century, I believe that I have never lost touch with where I came from, or where my roots began. I grew up in a small agricultural community in Southern Wisconsin where hard work was a way of life, honesty was considered a mandatory virtue, and "public service" was considered your civic duty and not the 13 letter equivalent of a four letter word. In a small rural community, you quickly learn the importance of being straight with people of keeping your word.

The third major influence in my life was the Boy Scouts of America. Beginning at age 13, I spent nine of the best summers of my life working on the staff of a Boy Scout camp in Northern Illinois. Advancing from the position of Nature Director to ultimately the Program Director for the entire camp, my days in scouting enhanced my love of the outdoors and taught me early lessons of leadership and the importance of a life of public service.

These three influences_my parents, growing up in a small town in the Midwest, and the Boy Scouts of America, have all contributed significantly to what I stand for and believe in today.

It is my view that the position of Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks is one of the most important positions in the Federal government today. White over positions may make greater contributions in important areas such as public health or education, no other governmental portfolio carries a greater trust responsibility for the American people than one involving the conservation and enhancement of this Nation's wildlife, cultural, historic and park resources.

At times this daunting task seems beyond the capabilities of any one person. As obvious as my own shortcomings may be, I nonetheless believe there are four reasons why you should favorably consider my nomination for the position of Assistant Secretary.

To begin with, I offer you my experience. I believe that my years in Washington, D.C. have provided me with a clear understanding of the varying roles and responsibilities of the office of Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. I have either worked in, or worked with, this particular office for almost a quarter of a century. From 1975 to 1986, I provided legal advice to the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks through various positions in the Office of the Solicitor at the Department of the Interior. Since my return to the Department as a political appointee in May of 1993, I have alternately served as the Counselor to the Assistant Secretary, the Deputy Assistant Secretary, and the Acting Assistant Secretary. Moreover, during the six years that I worked for the House of Representatives, I was responsible for the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee's Congressional oversight of the Assistant Secretary's office. It, thus, could be said that I have interacted with past Assistant Secretaries for Fish and Wildlife and Parks from a variety of angles. I, believe therefore, that I have the practical experience and insight that one would want in an Assistant Secretary.

In addition to my familiarity with the office of Assistant Secretary, I have also worked for over 20 years with the two agencies that this office oversees: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. I served for 12 years as an attorney for the Fish and Wildlife Service, including 6 years as that agency's Chief Counsel. As a result of this prior professional relationship, I have long-standing personal ties with every Regional Director in the Service, and most of the agency's Field Supervisors as well. Moreover, I have worked closely with the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Jamie Clark, for many years, and believe that we have established a solid record of solving problems together.

While my past involvement with the National Park Service may not be as extensive as with the Fish and Wildlife Service, I nevertheless am familiar with the key programs of the Park Service and have established an excellent working relationship with the Director of that agency, Bob Stanton. I also have long-standing working relationships with many of the senior leaders in the Park Service. For example, I first met two of the Park Service's current Regional Directors while working on park issues for the Department during the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in the late 1970's. Thus, I am no stranger to the policies and programs of the National Park Service.

The second reason I would offer for you to consider supporting my nomination is my long record of bipartisan collaboration in preserving America's natural resources. Mr. Chairman, I have never seen a Democratic flock of geese or a Republican sunset over Yosemite \/alley. Labels of exclusive political ownership may be the bread and butter for Washington pundits, but they are contrary to the history of conservation in this country. Our greatest gains in preserving our natural, cultural, and historical legacy have occurred when men and women of both political parties have set aside their differences and forged a common ground on behalf of the American people. There are plenty of partisan political issues to be divided over the preservation of our parks and wildlife resources should not be among them.

The third reason I hope that you would favorably consider my nomination is that I appreciate the special role reserved for Congress by the Constitution in the development and implementation of this country's natural resource policies. Having spent six years as a general counsel for a Committee Chairman in the House of Representatives, I understand first-hand the importance of balanced Congressional oversight of the administrative implementation of our laws. So long as the inquiries are fair, I will always welcome the input from Congress in assessing how well we are doing. For in the end, we are all accountable to the American people, and only by working together, can Congress and the Executive Branch enhance the natural and cultural heritage of this country.

The final reason you should consider supporting my nomination is my personal approach to solving problems. Quite frankly, easy problems rarely work their way up the food chain to the desk of an Assistant Secretary. All too often the problems are complex and messy, involving large doses of conflicting facts and inflexible, dug-in opponents, each convinced that the other side is horribly, horribly wrong.

Unfortunately, we seem to be losing our ability in this country to respectfully with one another without being disagreeable. Our society seems to be shouting more and listening less. I believe that the reverse approach is necessary to be an effective Assistant Secretary. In order to fairly sort out conflicting facts and points of view, an Assistant Secretary should be accessible to all parties, and be a particularly good listener. Judge Learned Hand once noted that ``The spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not too sure it is right.'' That spirit is jeopardized by too much certitude, by too much righteousness, and by an unwillingness or incapacity to stand in another's shoes.

I pride myself on being a good listener and of being open and accessible to different points of view. The fact that my candidacy has been endorsed by the leadership of such polar opposites as the Wilderness Society and the American Farm Bureau, the Safari Club and the Humane Society, and the California League of Conservation Voters and the Southern California building industry, will hopefully tell you more about my approach to solving problems than my ultimate decisions themselves. While many of these organizations will tell you that they disagree with some of my positions, they will also tell you that I am fair, I am balanced, and I listen carefully to what they say. For in the end, I am neither an ideologue from the right nor from the left--I am simply from Wisconsin.

Winston Churchill once stated that "we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." As I come before you today, I am asking you to give me another opportunity to serve the American people. I am proud to be associated with two of the finest agencies in the Federal government, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I am honored to work on a daily basis with their dedicated employees and I intend to be an advocate for our national parks and this country's fish and wildlife resources. Anything less, in my mind, would disqualify me from this post.

President John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address distilled the essence of public service to its purest form. He said "I am certain after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit." With your confidence and support, I pledge to work diligently to enhance the park and wildlife resources of this country. In this small way, I too, may enhance the human spirit of this nation. Thank you.