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Senators Snub Gov.'s Pick for Forestry Board

Leaders fault how the administration handled the nomination process of a contentious choice.

June 18, 2005|Jordan Rau | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's contested nominee to become one of the state's top forestry policymakers was rejected by California Senate leaders Friday.

Nancy Drinkard, Schwarzenegger's choice for the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, had drawn strong opposition from environmentalists who said her views were too aligned with those of the timber industry.

But Senate leaders said their decision to decline to grant Drinkard a hearing -- effectively killing her nomination -- had as much if not more to do with the "deceptive" way the administration had appointed her. She was placed on the board last June despite objections, but the administration did not send the nomination to the Senate until Sept. 3, after the Legislature had adjourned for the year.

"They kept it a total secret until we were out of session," said Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), chairwoman of the Senate Natural Resources and Wildlife Committee. "That seemed very duplicitous."

Julie Soderlund, a Schwarzenegger spokeswoman, said the administration had followed "standard operating procedure" with the appointment.

"It's unfortunate that such a qualified person won't be able to serve the people of California, because of a nonexistent administrative issue," Soderlund said.

Drinkard could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

The nine-member forestry board oversees parks, watersheds, forests and other wilderness areas that are not under federal authority.

Drinkard had been nominated as a member representing the public, but some environmentalists from the Santa Cruz area, where Drinkard had been a state forestry official for 25 years, complained that she was contemptuous when members of the public offered comments.

Other land preservation activists and forestry advocates had praised her as a highly knowledgeable official with a balanced view that took into account all sides.

Drinkard has been sitting on the board on an interim basis, which allowed her to serve until July 8, a year after she was appointed. The administration had asked for the Senate to hold a hearing and vote on her nomination, but Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) decided they would not, ending her chances at confirmation.

"The appointment was made in a deceptive manner that violates the integrity of the process and does not warrant a hearing," said Alicia Dlugosh, a Perata spokeswoman. "The fact that there is such strong opposition to her appointment that she could not win confirmation is secondary. Had she been appointed in an appropriate manner, it would be a different story."

William Keye, a forester who also is the lobbyist for the California Licensed Foresters Assn., called the decision "a painful and very unfortunate blow."

"She was really mistreated in the process," Keye said. "It's very disturbing to see that Sen. Perata would not even grant her a hearing. Maybe because in a hearing people would find out that she's not a fire-breathing dragon, but just a fine and very talented human being."

Jodi Frediani, a leader of the Sierra Club's Santa Cruz chapter, said environmentalists had continued to lobby against Drinkard's appointment. The Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors voted to oppose Drinkard in March.

"She was the wrong person to represent the public interest," Frediani said.

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