Public lands commissioner: re-elect Peter Goldmark

By the Tri-City HeraldOctober 31, 2012 

Clint Didier has accumulated a wealth of information about what he believes are the shortcomings of Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark.

But while Didier's research shows that there's room for improvement in the state Department of Natural Resources, he fails to make a convincing case that he'd be an effective agent for change.

Moreover, while Goldmark hasn't solved every issue facing the nearly 6 million acres of state lands his agency oversees, the Democratic incumbent has made significant progress since his election in 2008.

DNR has issued contracts to restore forests infected with invasive species, a necessary step in making state lands less fire prone.

Goldmark earned particularly high marks for his innovative approach to Puget Sound restoration efforts. The Seattle Times called him "a creative and adaptive manager of state aquatic lands."

Didier, who won two Super Bowl rings as a tight end for the Washington Redskins, seems to have adapted the sports adage -- "The best defense is a good offense" -- as a political strategy.

But in Goldmark's case, it's easy to find examples that run counter to his Republican challenger's claims of mismanagement.

During Goldmark's tenure, for example, the fees from timber sales that DNR collects to cover its management costs dropped from 30 percent to 27 percent for state trust lands and 25 percent to 21 percent for trust forest lands for timber counties. In other words, lower overhead costs and more money to pay for public services.

Didier makes much of concerns raised in a 2011 survey of DNR employees. Some workers are unhappy, and some are even supporting Didier.

But Goldberg points out that responses from DNR workers showed higher levels of satisfaction than employees in other state agencies in all but one of 16 areas evaluated.

It's not surprising that morale took a hit. The state's response to the economic recession has forced spending cuts statewide. For DNR, it meant cutting 10 percent of the work force, selling off 250 vehicles that many workers saw as a perk and slashing the travel budget by 80 percent.

Deep cuts were needed to balance state budget beset with shortfalls, and despite protests from some of the department's workers, a trimmer agency is in line with what most Mid-Columbia voters want for state government.

We didn't find anything in Didier's resume -- primarily limited to a family farm operation, a football career and unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate -- to indicate he's prepared to run a massive state agency.

Goldmark operated a family ranch in Okanogan, but his experience runs much deeper. He earned a doctorate in molecular biology from the University of California and studied neurobiology at Harvard University under a postdoctoral fellowship.

He has a broad array of experience to draw on, including stints as state director of agriculture, chairman of the Governor's Council on Agriculture and the Environment, president of the Board of Regents of Washington State University, school board member and wildland firefighter.

He's not only prepared to oversee Washington's vast network of public lands, but also proved during his first term to be an able steward of the public's resources.

The Herald editorial board recommends voters re-elect Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark.

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