The Nature of Things: Women in the catbird's seat

The Nature of Things: There's more than one kind of SPAM

For those who think America is still a male-dominated society, they haven't been paying attention. Yeah, I know, we haven't yet elected a woman for president; but, the key word in this statement is "yet." No, her name won't be Clinton, as Hilary is carrying too much baggage from her husband's disgraced administration.

To understand the latest trends in government, we have to look at the Bush administration's cabinet appointments. In Bush's inner circle of advisors on foreign policy and security, Condoleza Rice is the dominant voice. Ms. Rice is uniquely qualified for this vital position by her expertise in world affairs. She was not appointed to fill a "quota" system such as Bill Clinton's cabinet that "looked like America."

Perhaps the most important appointment for rural America was Bush's choice of Gale Norton at Secretary of Interior. She is the perfect antidote to repair the damage done by Bruce Babbitt's "War on the West." Gale Norton's agenda involves working with local jurisdictions and people on the land to solve environmental and resource problems. After Babbitt's arrogance in bypassing Congress and local governments, Norton is a breath of fresh air.

Bush sought out another well-qualified lady to head up the U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, who replaces Glickman of the Clinton administration. This is also a vital improvement for the West, as the USDA oversees the U.S. Forest Service. The new ag secretary intends to break up the gridlock that exists in our National Forests.

And speaking of National Forests, let's get closer to home in order to observe what has been happening right here in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Whether by design or happenstance, the feminine gender has been elevated to almost all the leadership positions in the Wallowa-Whitman. Down in Baker City where the amiable Bob Richmond served so many years, we now have Karen Wood sitting in the supervisor's chair. And it looks like from what we've seen so far from her decisions and goals, she is anything but a shrinking violet. Unlike Mike Dombeck, the former forest chief, who was only interested in roadless wilderness designations, Karen Wood wants to put some multiple-use management back into our neglected forests.

To help her achieve her agendas, we have two more hands-on, highly capable women in the top leadership roles working out of the visitor's center on the hill west of Enterprise. Heading up the Hell's Canyon National Recreation Area and the Eagle Cap Ranger District is Kendall Clark. She has brought about a more balanced management style to these two vast landscapes where conflicts of interest are unavoidable.

The other lady who is making her mark is Meg Mitchell, who is in charge of the Wallowa Valley Ranger District. Meg has actually been able to complete a controversial timber sale in record time by salvaging fire killed trees from the Carrol Creek Burn. Quite an accomplishment when you consider all the environmental roadblocks to overcome.

Not all highly qualified resource-friendly women are employed by government, however. Just to mention a couple of local gals who are indispensable to the resource industry in Wallowa County, we have Cassandra Botts, who helps manage the thousands of acres of timberland owned by the Boise Corporation here in the county.

The other lady is Diane Snyder who heads up the non-profit Wallowa Resources which is active in keeping our resource-based economy alive by pro-active involvements with a cross section of entities.

So what's my point?

No, I'm no implying that there is a vast, feminist conspiracy to take over all leadership in America. On the contrary, I applaud all of the above-mentioned ladies who are rising to the top in areas that were formerly dominated by men due to their outdoorsy, more masculine nature.

Perhaps women are more uniquely qualified to stand up against the bullying tactics of the Andy Kerrs and Bruce Babbitts. Or maybe they just want a better world for their children.

Anyway, when I think back 40 or 50 years ago, the only time you would see a woman at a decision-making board meeting was when she brought in the coffee. Then she got to come in again after the meeting to empty the ashtrays and clean off the table.

I suppose some women still do that, but at last now we have many capable ladies sitting in the catbird's seat. I guess one could say they have broken through the so-called glass ceiling. Is this the wave of the future? If it means we will be selecting our leaders on the basis of qualifications and talent without regard for race or gender, then America is functioning the way it's suppose to be.

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