Lynn Scarlett, who held the Interior Department's No. 2 post during the Bush administration, is now working for an advocacy group that was frequently at odds with her department during her time there.
The former Interior deputy secretary is consulting for the Environmental Defense Fund, working on three white papers on climate change, ecosystem services and landscape-scale conservation. Said Scarlett, "I love it. It's great."
Scarlett was second in command at Interior from 2005 to 2009, a period some environmentalists call the worst years ever for the department. At issue for the groups were rampant political corruption and much-reviled efforts to shrink endangered-species protection and promote oil and gas development on public lands.
But environmental lobbyists say they do not blame Scarlett for Interior's problems. They say Scarlett -- a birder who took a particular interest in wildlife refuges and bird conservation -- was willing to listen to environmentalists and took a reasonable approach to formulating policy.
"You can't polish a turd, but she was the best they had," said Brian Moore, who works on government affairs for the Audubon Society. "There were things coming down from Gale Norton, who was probably the worst secretary of Interior ever, so to have someone in there like Lynn, whom we did not always agree with but who also ... showed a lot of promise in wanting to do the right thing for the environment."
Scarlett joined Interior in 2001 as assistant secretary for policy, management and budget. She took the department's No. 2 post after the previous deputy secretary, J. Steven Griles, resigned to return to lobbying for the coal industry. He later pleaded guilty to obstructing justice in the Senate investigation of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.
Before joining the Bush administration, Scarlett was known for her advocacy of "free market environmentalism" as president of the libertarian Reason Foundation in Los Angeles. She was also involved with the Political Economy Research Center in Montana and was a lecturer for the free-market group Institute for Humane Studies.
Much of Scarlett's research has focused on incentives for resource management and market-based solutions to environmental problems. Environmentalists said that line of research could fit in well with the Environmental Defense Fund, or EDF, which has many programs focused on incentives and often partners with business entities.
"Ms. Scarlett is assisting Environmental Defense Fund with some research on how to better connect the risk reduction and other services provided by natural systems -- such as forests, wetlands and floodplains -- with economic incentives to protect and restore those natural systems," said Mary Kelly, EDF's vice president. "Her experience with the private sector and resource economics has been quite helpful to us."
Scarlett took particular interest in bird conservation at Interior, which recently released its "State of the Birds," and launched a Bush administrative initiative on migratory birds.
But Scarlett did clash with environmental groups, particularly on the crafting of a recovery plan for the endangered northern spotted owl. A peer review of the plan found Interior ignored the most recent and best available science.
Scarlett told the House Natural Resources Committee in 2007 that she has ordered the recovery team to develop the controversial option that eliminated mapped conservation reserves.
"She was accessible on a number of issues, even if we disagreed," said Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity, a group that regularly battles Interior in federal court over endangered species policies. "But she was the deputy secretary, so she still has got to take some responsibility for the worst Interior Department in history."