Graham blocking wildlife nomination over Glades issue.

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Published Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Graham blocking wildlife nomination over Glades issue.

BY FRANK DAVIES, Miami Herald
fdavies@herald.com

WASHINGTON -- Using his leverage as a senator, Bob Graham continues to block confirmation of a Bush administration appointee until he can meet with Interior Secretary Gale Norton about her decision to close the Office of Everglades Restoration.

Graham, a Florida Democrat, wants Norton to clarify why she took that action. He also wants to urge Norton to keep Michael Davis, the head of the office, involved in Everglades issues, said Paul Anderson, a spokesman for Graham.

Graham and Norton hope to meet next week, said Anderson and Hugh Vickery, an Interior spokesman, on Tuesday.

In the meantime, Graham has placed a ``hold'' on the nomination of Steven Williams as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Williams, secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, was voted out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Nov. 8, but his nomination can't come to the Senate floor if a senator places a hold on it.

That procedure is often used -- but rarely by Graham -- to get the administration's attention on another issue.

Norton decided to close Davis' office, which played a coordinating role with the many agencies involved in the project, early this month. Interior officials said the decision would ``streamline'' the bureaucracy and save $1.3 million that could be used on environmental projects.

Graham and other members of the Florida delegation were not notified about the decision. Republican Rep. Mark Foley, whose district includes the office, was also critical of the action. Graham said he wants to be assured of the administration's ``commitment to Everglades restoration.''

Several environmental groups said Davis, known as an independent voice on the Everglades, had clashed with state officials over water allocation decisions.

Vickery said Davis was ``a valuable employee who is being reassigned'' but would not say what Davis' new responsibilities would be.
 

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