Friday, May 16, 2003
President Nominates Interior Department Official for Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
President Bush yesterday nominated Department of the Interior Solicitor William Gerry Myers III to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
If confirmed, Myers would succeed Judge Thomas G. Nelson, who is taking senior status Nov. 14.
Myers, 46, has been the top lawyer at Interior since the summer of 2001. Before that, he was an attorney at a Boise, Idaho firm, where he specialized in natural resources law. He was one of four Idahoans recommended for the court by the state’s senior senator, Republican Larry Craig, in February.
He began his legal career in Wyoming but has spent a good portion of his professional career in the nation’s capital, having been legislative counsel to then-Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyoming, for several years. He also worked in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, having been assistant to the attorney general from 1989 to 1992 and deputy general counsel for programs at the Department of Energy from 1992 to 1993.
After Bush left the White House, Myers worked as a lawyer and lobbyist for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and executive director of the Public Lands Council, a non-profit group that represents the NCBA as well as the American Sheep Industry Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Association of National Grasslands, before joining the firm of Holland & Hart as of counsel in 1997.
Myers is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and received his law degree from the University of Denver.
His appointment to the Interior post drew criticism from environmentalists, in part as a result of his having represented ranchers in a challenge to the Clinton administration’s rangeland rules. They also pointed to his chairmanship of a task force appointed by then-Sen. Dirk Kempthorne, now Idaho’s governor, that advocated local control over 10.7 million acres of federal land.
In the rangeland case, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the rules. At his confirmation hearing two years ago, Myers underplayed the significance of that decision.
What his clients were mainly concerned about, he said, were that the rules would cost them the preference they generally enjoy in bidding on leases for grazing land. The ranchers were “relieved,” he said, that the solicitor general assured the Supreme Court that the rules were not intended to do that.
The task force report was denounced as a “shoddy piece of work” by the Idaho Conservation League, which said it would lead to greatly increased timber cutting in Idaho’s forests and to increased road building.
Others defended the report, noting that many advocates of “balanced use” of public lands in the West support the task force’s approach of having local groups set policies and goals for lands that would still be owned by the federal government and primarily managed by federal agencies.
John Freemuth, a political science professor at Boise State University and a senior fellow at the Cecil Andrus Center for Public Policy, told the Idaho Statesman that Myers may be conservative and pro-business, but is not a zealot.
“He has a sharp legal mind,” Freemuth said. “Attorneys don’t tend to be right-wing nuts; they tend to be strategic.”
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company