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Energy and Interior Nominations: Nominee Rhea Suh




Statement of Rhea S. Suh

Nominee for Assistant Secretary for

Policy, Management and Budget for the Department of Interior

Before the

U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources

May 5, 2009

Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Committee, it is an honor and privilege to be here today as President Obama's nominee for Assistant Secretary of Policy, Management and Budget at the Department of the Interior.  Thank you for the opportunity and thanks to the members of the committee staff and personal staff who took the time to meet with me last week. 

I also want to thank Secretary Salazar; it would be a great privilege to work for a man whom I deeply respect and admire.  It would also be a true honor to work on behalf of and with the thousands of dedicated men and women within the Department of Interior.

Being in this room today brings back many fond memories of the time when I worked for Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell.  It would be a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with so many familiar and respected colleagues again.   

I was born on the edge of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder, Colorado, and raised by Korean immigrant parents who found their way to that great state like so many other pioneers, with dreams of the freedom that this nation promises and of a better life for their family.  Like so many other Westerners, I grew up reaping the benefits of the lands and waters managed by our federal government.  My dad first taught me how to bait-fish for trout in Lake Granby, managed by the Bureau of Reclamation; as a Girl Scout, I camped out and told ghost stories under the starry skies in Rocky Mountain National Park; and in high school, I helped build a section of the Continental Divide Trail, which is in part managed by the Bureau of Land Management.  This tapestry of lands—the backdrop of my childhood—has influenced me and my values throughout my life. 

My background taught me the importance of sustainable use of our resources, the protection of the most special places within our nation, and the need to balance protection of those special places with the needs of local communities. With these values, I have worked in a variety positions thorough my career. Early on, I worked to inspire young people about our natural world as a high school teacher of Earth Sciences in the public school system in New York City and later as a consultant to the National Park Service in New England.  During my tenure as a Legislative Assistant to Senator Campbell, I worked in and with both political parties, negotiating collaborative approaches in legislation that included the Presidio Trust, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.  And most recently, I have served as a grantmaker for two of the largest charitable foundations in the country—first at the Hewlett Foundation and now currently with the Packard Foundation. 

Over the past eleven years, I have managed hundreds of grants and millions of dollars focused on conservation issues in the North American West.   In particular, I have sought opportunities to support a broad array of conservation voices, including the voices of Native Americans, hunters and anglers, faith-based coalitions and environmental justice organizations.  Over time, I have come to believe that the most durable and successful conservation policies are those that are created with broad input, including local knowledge to create place-based solutions that ultimately promote both the biological sustainability of natural systems as well as the economic viability of local communities.   I have also worked diligently to create accountability within my grantmaking—developing clear strategic plans with performance metrics that can be monitored and evaluated over time for their effectiveness. 

I believe that the Department of the Interior is presently facing many critical challenges.  These challenges include issues of accountability and fiscal management, educating the public about the importance of public lands and resources, and understanding and reacting proactively to the impacts of climate change.  With these challenges comes an enormous amount of opportunity and responsibility.  The Department must bring a new level of transparency, efficiency and effectiveness to its work.  In addition, it must ensure broad public input into the decision-making process.  It must also involve a new generation of leaders looking both to discover their country's natural, cultural and historical heritage and to help them find a place in building the Department's future legacy. Finally, the Department must provide economic opportunities for local communities through the sustainable use of our public lands, including alternative energy generation and transmission. 

So I would like to end by coming back to my beginnings.  From the first time I hooked a rainbow trout with my Dad, I was a beneficiary of the bounty of our nation's rich natural heritage.  If confirmed, I hope to continue the legacy of this bounty by providing for the sustainable use and management of the Department's lands and waters for the benefit of all the people of this great country. 

Thank you again for the honor of being here today.