Department of the Interior

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For Immediate Release:
October 14, 2005
Contact: Dan DuBray
(202) 208-6416

Secretary Gale Norton Praises Leadership of Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Rebecca Watson

WASHINGTON -Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton today announced the resignation of Rebecca Watson as Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. In her role as Assistant Secretary, Watson has provided policy, priorities and oversight to the Bureau of Land Management, the Minerals Management Service, and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Watson has announced her intention to return to the West and join the Denver, Colorado office of Hogan and Hartson, LLP. Her resignation is effective October 28, 2005.

In a letter to Watson, Secretary Norton praised her role in encouraging environmentally appropriate energy development, including a focus on renewable energy:

"You can head out West secure in the knowledge that you helped improve the long-term health and vitality of the American West as well as the energy security of the entire Nation," Secretary Norton said in a letter accepting Watson's resignation today. "You played an especially noteworthy leadership role in promoting renewable energy. The record speaks for itself: ten times the number of wind energy facilities were permitted the last four years than in the previous four years."

In her letter of resignation to Secretary Norton, Watson said it was difficult to leave a position that allows a person to make a difference for the country they love:

Secretary Norton credited Assistant Secretary Watson with a leadership role in the development and implementation of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, signed into law by President Bush in December of 2003, saying that western communities are today better protected from the threat of catastrophic fire:

"Your development and implementation of the President's Healthy Forests Initiative is improving the health of our forests and rangelands," she added. "You have managed record funding increases for firefighters and equipment, and achieved record levels of fuels treatment."

In her letter to Secretary Norton, Watson also pointed to the challenge facing the nation's energy production in the wake of back-to-back hurricanes hitting the Gulf of Mexico's energy infrastructure:

"Interior has an important role to play in that recovery and MMS employees have been performing in an exemplary way," she said.

Before assuming her current position of Assistant Secretary, Watson served as a managing partner of the Gough, Shanahan, Johnson & Waterman law firm located in Helena, Montana, dealing with a wide variety of natural resources and environmental issues. From 1993-1995, she worked as an attorney for the Crowell & Moring law firm, based in Washington, D.C., where she worked on issues involving public lands, endangered species, and natural resources.

Watson served in the administration of George H.W. Bush, where she was appointed assistant general counsel for energy policy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

A native of Chicago, Watson is a graduate of the University of Denver, College of Arts and Sciences, where she received her B.A. degree, magna cum laude in 1974. She earned an M.A. degree in 1975 from the University of Denver, School of Librarianship, and her law degree from the University of Denver, School of Law in 1978.

The Department of the Interior will name an acting Assistant Secretary upon Rebecca Watson's departure. A permanent replacement must be nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.