Interviewee: George Frampton
Interviewer: Brian Gridley
Date: July 25, 2002
G: This is Brian Gridley interviewing George Frampton in his office in Washington
D.C. The date is July 25, 2002. Mr. Frampton, briefly tell me about your
professional background including education and career decisions.
F: I was a physics major in college. I went to law school not necessarily to be a
lawyer, but to learn how to think. I graduated from Harvard Law School in 1969,
worked as a VISTA volunteer, then as a law clerk to Justice Blackman on the
Supreme Court. I worked as a prosecutor on the Watergate prosecution, 1973 to
1975, practiced law for about eight years, and then became president of the
Wilderness Society a national environmental organization in 1986. I did that until
1993 when I went to work for Bruce Babbitt at the Interior Department and in
June of 1993 was confirmed as Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks
in the Department of Interior. I did that job for four years, I left the department. I
came back about a year and a half later to the White House as the chairman of
the Council on Environmental Quality and stayed in that position until the end of
the Clinton Administration.
G: During your time at the Wilderness Society, how involved were you in the
Everglades related issues?
F: Pretty involved. One of the very first things I did in 1986 or 1987 was go to an
Everglades Coalition meeting, and the coalition was, at that time, really just
getting started. It had gotten a boost from or was helping, I'm not sure which,
Senator Bob Graham who was then governor and had taken an interest in
Everglades restoration in the mid-1980s with a state program. At that point, the
Coalition and some of the political power structure, certainly Graham, were
interested in the concept of trying to make the Everglades look more in 2000 like
it had in 1900 than it looked like in 1985. That was sort of a grand vision, but the
Coalition wasn't very successful in the early years in advancing that vision.
There were a number of smaller projects including trying to get more water to the
Park, the Kissimmee River restoration, growing worries about phosphorous
pollution from the Everglades Agricultural Areas that pretty much were the focus
of the coalition at that time.
G: To what extent with the Wilderness Society get involved with the process of
litigation that began in 1988 with Dexter Lehtinen's lawsuit against the State of
Florida over water quality issues?
F: The Wilderness Society opened a Florida office to work on the Everglades, and
we hired a guy named Jim Webb from Arizona who was a lawyer and very
interested in the water issues and other public issues. He was a very senior
former Interior Department official from the Carter Administration, and he was
interested in moving to Florida. We opened an office. At some point, in the first
year that he was there, Jim Webb and a couple of other people from the
environmental community went in to see the U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen about
the phosphorous problem and suggested to him that he file a lawsuit or do
something about it, file a lawsuit against the state because the state was the
entity with authority to do something about the phosphorous runoff, was not
doing anything about it. A couple of months later, they were absolutely stunned
to pick up the newspaper and find that Lehtinen had filed the lawsuit. Then, of
course, the environmental community really wanted to get into this to make sure
that it was prosecuted by subsequent U.S. Attorneys, to not drop it, that it was
prosecuted vigorously, so the Wilderness Society became very involved in the
litigation. What was interesting about it was that this was somewhat of an
offhand idea that I believe the environmental community and, maybe, my
impression of Jim himself had sort of raised almost as an afterthought. Then the
whole thing got rolling.
G: What led to your departure from the Wilderness Society and then your becoming
Assistant Secretary of the Interior?
F: I'd been at the Wilderness Society almost seven, and I got offered the job by
Bruce Babbitt, so it seemed like the real action was going to be in the
government, and I wanted to do that. It seemed like a great opportunity.
G: Had you known Secretary Babbitt before that time?
F: Yeah, I had had some contacts with him. We had done a little bit together.
Gaylord Nelson and I had actually tried to recruit him to go on board of the
Wilderness Society, and I knew him in connection with the work he had
undertaken to be sort of a part time chairman or honorary chairman of the
League of Conservation Voters, which was then run by Jim Maddy, and I knew
Jim. So, through Jim, I also knew Babbitt, and have done a lot of work with Jim.
Jim became sort of Babbitt's de facto pro tem chief of staff during the transition
after Babbitt was named.
G: How difficult was it for you to make the transition from environmental advocate
and the President of the Wilderness Society to know assuming a government
F: It was not that difficult. I always approached the Wilderness Society as an
advocacy... responsible advocacy meant knowing your case and knowing how to
present your case, and if you want to get something done in the government, you
have to do that, too. A number of people asked me at the time, "Is this some big
transition?" I didn't find it a big transition at all.
G: Would you describe your involvement as Assistant Secretary with the then
ongoing process of negotiations dealing with the water quality litigation?
F: That did not really dominate the agenda internally. What happened was that, it's
very important, that in 1990 or 1991, the environmental community and again
Jim Webb was very instrumental in this, had succeeded in authorizing a clause
or sentence into a Corps of Engineers appropriations bill that authorized a study
of the broad subject of restoring the Everglades. The thought at the time was to
move this forward incrementally. Then when Clinton's elected, Babbitt became
Secretary of Interior, we had the opportunity to actually act on this. We, being
the Administration, not the Interior Department, and Babbitt, very early on,
decided that he wanted to try to move something, but it required getting the
Corps of Engineers involved. It was frustrated because Babbitt had been there a
few months, and there wasn't any political appointee at the Corps, nobody had
been even named to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. I had
talked to Babbitt about trying to get some interagency process going and actually
doing this restudy. Babbitt said, "Well, to hell with it, I'm not going to wait six
months for them to get some political leadership over there, let's just get the
uniform people over, let's get the career people over." Somehow we were able
to setup a meeting with the senior uniform leadership with the Corps. They came
over and sat around in Babbitts office, which is pretty impressive, the Secretary
of Interior's office is a pretty impressive office, and Babbitt said that he was going
to give them this fabulous opportunity to restore South Florida, and they went for
it. So we began to develop with the help of EPA and a couple of other
departments, but mostly it was Interior and the Corps, a plan to try to actually use
some money, reprogram some money, get a restudy going, and we realized it
would take at least a multi-agency task force, we set that up. All of this was with
the generals, the uniform career people at the Corps. Whether they were happy
to have a new project or whether they saw a vision here of a new role for the
Corps or whether they just liked Babbitt, or whether they thought they better go
along because this is what the new administration speaking through Babbitt
would want when they finally got their own political leadership, I don't know. The
focus of the administration from the very beginning was not on the pollution
lawsuit, it was on trying to put together a broad restoration effort. The pollution
lawsuit was really something that was in the way, and it was in the way not only
because it was a diversion of time and energy, but because it was probably going
to be so divisive that it would hold back any kind of restoration effort unless we
could do something about it. The outlines of the settlement were clear, but it was
one of these processes where to actually get the acreage and get the money and
set up the filtration systems and do the things that it was pretty clear had to be
done to make any kind of real progress on phosphorous could take years, could
eat up four or eight years in the Administration. The focus was really on trying to
settle the suit in a way that would deal with the phosphorous problem and move
on to the broader restoration agenda. I became very involved in a series of
discussions that were very rancorous, very difficult, stayed up all night a few
times at the Interior Department trying to negotiate with the sugar people.
Eventually, of course, we reached our settlement which, then, some people in the
environmental community felt was diverting them from their penny a pound sugar
tax campaign. We thought it was never going to go anywhere, it never did go
anywhere, and things fell apart from the other side, and, eventually, a version of
it had to be legislated in Florida. In terms of shaping the settlement, I was very,
very involved in that along with Bonnie Coen who was the Assistant Secretary of
Interior for Management and Budget. We were Babbitt's chief negotiators. We
kept coming back and saying, "Don't you want to get involved in this? Don't you
want to close this?" He kept saying, "No, I don't want to get involved in this. You
do it, you know what you're doing. You make the decisions." He ended up
taking the heat from a few environmentalists for it.
G: Let me break this down a little bit. When you're talking about the early meetings
with the Corps of Engineers, do you recall some of the specific people from the
Corps that might have been involved with that?
F: I don't really.
G: But it was the career military?
F: It was the career military. I have a very strong recollection of two meetings of at
Babbit's office where these people came over. Babbitt sort of spun his siren and
saw that this is going to be a great project, and we were going to help him, and
everybody was going to love him, and they were going to get a lot of money and
they were going to do the right thing and so on and so forth.
G: Did you find that the Corps officials were receptive to the vision that you were
F: Yeah, surprisingly, they were. This would not have gotten off the ground at all or
certainly not for another year, if some of the uniform people hadn't felt like they
wanted to or had to cooperate and be a part of this right from the beginning.
Obviously, as time went on, the Corps has a variety of agendas and was often
pulling the other way, although there were lots of very good people involved
there, too, in this whole effort. Right at the beginning, they were willing to go for
it. As I said, I don't know why if they knew what they were getting themselves
into, but we were very pleased. When we sort of organized this interagency task
force, and once this thing got rolling, in the early days of the thing maybe they
thought nothing would come. We do a study, takes us a couple of years. We
said, "No, not a couple of years, how about nine months?" At the very beginning,
the career people were amenable to doing it. So they were pretty cooperative at
G: Some people have been critical of the fact that with this restoration basically
giving the same agency that created many of the problems in South Florida the
primary restoration mission. Did you or anyone in Interior have any concerns at
the time that maybe the Corps wasn't the right organization to be undertaking this
F: Of course, but there is no other organization that was in a position to undertake
the mission. They have the jurisdiction, billions of dollars have been invested.
There weren't any real world choices other than getting the cooperation of the
Corps. Either voluntarily or through the direction of Congress or whatever, but
they sit astride South Florida, they run South Florida's water. There wasn't any
practical choice other than to have them involved.
G: Back at that time, when you were thinking about restoration, what did you have in
mind in terms of restoring the Everglades? What was your vision?
F: I think the vision was some practical version of the sense of making the
Everglades in 2000, now perhaps we should say 20/20, more like it was in 1900
than it was when the South Florida project was finished in the 1960s. That's a
vision. As many people have said, you can't really restore the natural water flow
except in small degrees. You can try to replicate some of the those flows. Is it
always going to be a managed system? For the short run, yes, short run next
quarter century. You have to temper the vision with the reality of what was likely
to be achievable. The vision was basically one of trying to restore more water
through the system, not just more water to the park, this was not a park-centric
plan by any means. It wasn't save the park, the park's only a piece of it and a
relatively small piece. It was really to try to mimic or replicate or recreate
patterns that were like the natural water flow patters. So that's the vision and
one can judge whether the plan comes close enough to the vision to make it
worthwhile or not.
G: Do you think it does? Does the Comprehensive Plan fit the vision you had back
at this time?
F: I guess I would say it's not a very close...it doesn't fit the vision, it's not the vision.
But, I think that the plan still has a very good chance of restoring substantial
portions of the natural processes in the Everglades and probably given the fact
that the Corps has legal jurisdiction and is always going to be a part of this, and
given the fact that the federal government is really in a partnership and a tug-of-
war with the state and it's authority over water and land use, that it's probably
about as good a restoration plan as was achievable. There are people that say
$7 [billion] or $8 billion isn't worth the money. My own sense is that it was worth
candle doing the plan and we'll just have to see. There aren't any real
assurances that this is going to deliver the kind of restoration benefits that many
of us hope that it will, but I think there's the chance it will.
G: When you say it's not the vision, what's missing from the Comprehensive Plan?
F: Ultimately, you can't make Central Florida look like 1900 any more than you can
make downtown Washington D.C. look like it was in 1900. It was just too much
population, too much increased demand for the resources. Too much has been
built to just take it all away. You're not going to move a couple of million people
out of South Florida in a forced march to Georgia. In that sense, the vision can't
be realized. But it helps to have visions even when your plan maybe seems to
G: Let me bring you back to the period of the litigation. Would you talk a little bit
about the process that led to the Statement of Principles agreement in July of
F: We negotiated. I don't know what else to say. Basically it was a negotiation to
settle a very, very complex litigation, a negotiation with very tenacious
G: What was the primary thinking that you and I guess Bonnie Coen and other from
the Interior Department, what was your thinking as you were going into these
F: We wanted to do something that would be effective in reducing phosphorous
levels. We were not interested in necessarily sticking it to the sugar companies,
we wanted to do something that would work. Something that would work meant
some combination of filtration, which meant more land, provide incentives and
force the companies to reduce phosphorous releases from their own property,
and money. The environmental community was primarily interested in punishing
the sugar industry and we were primarily interested in stopping the phosphorous
flows. The settlement and the things that flowed out of it were controversial at
the time, but it worked. In my view, whatever you say about the papers and the
legislation and the concepts and we didn't get enough money or we did get
enough money out of the sugar industry, the fact is that what was done is... that's
one of the successes of this program I think which is the phosphorous levels are
down tenfold. What we tried to do as it turned out worked from my point of view.
That's what we were trying to do, we were trying to reduce phosphorous
G: Why did that initial Statement of Principles agreement later break down in
December of that year?
F: I don't remember today I'm going back almost a decade all of the details of
this, but my recollection is that the industry tried to walk away. We had some
hooks in them, but maybe not enough to prevent the fish from slipping off the
hook, they basically tried to back out. That's my recollection.
G: Why do you tink they did that?
F: They're very tenacious. They want to negotiate an agreement, then they want to
get more. In this case they wanted more and we weren't interested in really
giving up anything that we felt we wanted to live up to the spirit of the agreement.
They didn't, it was as simple as that.
G: When you say they wanted more, is there something specific that you're thinking
F: I'm sure there are things, but I don't have a recollection of that at this point.
G: Why did the Interior Department then decide to negotiate a separate settlement
agreement with the Flo-Sun corporation early the following year?
F: We were trying everything that we could to put this settlement back together, so I
don't remember the ins and outs of the details of the negotiations. At that point,
we were trying to find strategies to put the settlement back together. I'm not sure
that went very far, but I remember that as being one idea. Just trying to use Flo-
Sun to leverage the other people.
G: Do you think it was effective in that respect?
F: I don't recall.
G: Several of the environmental groups were very critical of both the statement of
principles agreement and the subsequent agreement with Flo-Sun claiming not
only were these, from their view, bad agreements, but that they hadn't been
adequately included in the process of negotiations. How did you respond to
those criticisms, particularly given your former affiliation with the Wilderness
F: I remember being very surprised at the opposition that was sort of led by Joe
Brouders stood up on a chair at the Interior Department went up toward him
and screamed at Babbitt, cursed Babbitt for reaching the Statement of Principles.
To me, this is all a little bit of ancient history. I thought the environmental
community was more interested in preserving their idea of getting money from
sugar and using the money somehow to clean this all up. In the long run, that
wasn't politically viable and even if it had been, the money could not have been
used to clean up the phosphorous. So even if ten times as much money had
been extracted from the sugar companies, it wouldn't have done anything about
the phosphorous. I felt that some people in the environmental community were
more interested in punishing the companies than actually solving the problem,
and that they didn't understand what was necessary to actually get to work on
the problem. They also did not have the bigger vision of having to get beyond
the lawsuit and see that unless we got beyond that, we weren't going to take the
bigger steps. That was something that we were doing internally, and the
environmental community was really focused on beating up on sugar, not on a
sort of broader agenda at that point. Because they had four or five years of not
making much progress on a broad agenda and I don't think they saw that the
people going into the government from the environmental community, including
people Babbitt and Carol Browner, could actually make this happen. I was
surprised, but I've done a lot of complex litigation, I've settled a lot of complex
cases, and I thought frankly they just didn't know what they were doing. They
were focused on the wrong things and it was self-defeating on their part not to try
to figure out how to actually get this thing settled so we could get on to the more
important stuff. I guess I would say in retrospect, it was a little bit bitter with
some people, not people who were my friends, but some people in the
environmental community were dead set on punishing sugar, but in retrospect we
were right. The case had to be settled, it had to be settled more or less on the
basis that we settled. It was the gateway to moving on to a broader restoration
plan and it's reduced the phosphorous. We took a lot of abuse from some
people in the environmental community about the whole effort to settle this, but
we turned out to be right, they turned out to be wrong.
G: How much of a long term impact did that have on the relationship between the
environmental community on the one hand and yourself and Secretary Babbitt on
F: It had a long term impact I think on the relationship between the environmental
community and the administration in some of the restoration planning in the
sense that we saw that they weren't going to be that much help, that we were
going to have to do this. If we were going to have the momentum, it was really
going to have to come from within the administration. I think it had a fairly strong
impact on Secretary Babbitt. He really felt like these people were his enemies,
that they had no good sense, no good deed goes unpunished, and it soured him
a lot on the environmental community. I don't think it soured me particularly
because I worked in this community for seven years so I know what some of the
strengths and weaknesses of the environmental community because I was one.
It wasn't a happy experience, but I think it reenforced the idea that the
environmental community, in terms of mounting a really major governmental
effort, was not going to be a driver, did not have a way to turn the vision into
anything. That we just weren't going to get much useful from them in the way of
science, ideas. Support yes, it was very important, but that they weren't going to
be intellectual partners in this or political partners. That they were going to be off
to the side. I think that's something that came out of this year of arguing about
G: Was that true of the entire restoration process or was there a point in time where
that relationship had healed?
F: I think after the first couple of years of setting the direction of a plan, that pushing
this forward, keeping the state engaged, keeping the Corps on track, those were
all things that required a lot of outside support. The support of the environmental
community became absolutely crucial in the last few years for pushing these
things through. I think certainly nationally, I was going to talk to people from the
environmental community and say we're doing something a world of importance
in designing a restoration plan in South Florida and most of the people don't even
know this is going on, they're not paying any attention across the country. This is
going to be one of the biggest things that this administration does, successfully or
unsuccessfully, and the environmental field is going to set a standard. You have
to pay attention, we need help, we need support of this, you have to pay attention
because this is really important. You have to get involved with this. Nobody
listened except the people in Florida obviously, but the national groups didn't pay
much attention. Oh yeah, we know this, we have somebody working on it. They
didn't pay much attention in 1994, 1995. It really wasn't until Gore and Clinton
discovered the environment in 1996, it was going to be an election year, all of a
sudden Gore wanted to go down and announce the plan. Then the national
environmental community said oh, this is a great thing, you have to support this.
I would say after in the second four years of the administration that the support of
the environmental community for the overall thrust of the plan, the importance
and priority of it. Plus, those groups in Florida nationally who had a few people
expert who were engaged and constantly pushing the plan toward a more
environmental restoration, got into the elements of the plan, were always saying
this isn't enough, this isn't enough. We're going to withdraw our support if it
doesn't have more water, if it doesn't do this if it doesn't do that. That kind of
pressure and critiquing was very important because basically they were
supporting the Interior Department's and EPA's agenda within the administration
and within the state-federal partnership. The overall support of the
environmental community and their detailed pressure on elements of the plan in
the last couple of years as it was being finalized were very important. I think the
partnership was sort of revived to some extent at that point because those roles
that the environmental community played in those two respects were essential in
getting everything finalized in a way that gives it a chance to be successful, not
guarantees that it's going to be successful which is what the environmental
community wanted and, there, may not have been achievable, certainly not
politically. But even to give the plan an opportunity to be successful, I think that
always was key. It took them a couple of years to really catch on that this was
not about punishing the sugar companies, this was about restoring South Florida.
G: The National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service had also been
parties to the original litigation filed by Dexter Lehtinen in 1988. How much
consensus was there in the Interior Department agencies that these agreements
and the process of negotiation with the sugar industry was the correct course to
F: There was always tension within the Interior Department and within the federal
family with the park scientists and some refuge, Fish and Wildlife scientists, and
some scientists from Florida universities always on, sort of, the most
environmental side, and various other agencies and people from the Corps to the
state to the Water Management District falling someplace else on the spectrum.
There were times in which the park and the refuge people were very happy with
the course that this was taking and there were a lot of other times when they felt
they were getting short shrift. I don't remember the ins and outs of the settlement
negotiations, but certainly in the early first year, year and a half, two years of
developing the plan, there were always advocates internally, and there was
always a lot of tension within the federal family. That was my job was to try to
keep the tension within the federal family below the boiling point so that we could
actually be an effective advocate for a vision of this plan with the state, Water
Management District and industry who were all obviously further to the right than
wherever the mean indication was from the federal family.
G: How would you evaluate the Everglades Forever Act that finally ended this
process of litigation?
F: As I said, it had a lot of flaws just like our settlements had a lot of flaws, but
ultimately, I would say, it worked, it succeeded. We've reduced phosphorous, we
got some money from the sugar industry, spent a lot of public money, too, and
we moved beyond that to the bigger issues of system-wide restoration. If we
hadn't settled the case, we'd probably still be litigating it, and we would have lost
six or eight years. I would say the course of trying to get that issue behind us
was the right course. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do it through settlement,
it got done by legislation. As I said, it has a lot of flaws, but in the end, it was the
right direction of the compass to move toward.
G: Once the Everglades Forever Act passed, did the earlier 1991 federal-state
settlement and accompanying judicial consent decree have any continuing
F: Yes. In terms of working the details of this, I don't know that any part of the
history ceased to have relevance. I haven't gone back and looked at those kinds
of details to be able to answer that question.
G: Let me rephrase the question, this might be helpful. Did the Everglades Forever
Act replace the consent decree?
F: I don't remember. From my point of view, there are a lot of people who are
involved in this in the environmental community, at least, who still want to dwell
on this sort of 1990 to 1994 period, but it's a decade later. For me, that's ancient
history. There was a lawsuit, it got settled, the settlement wasn't going to be
implemented, we settled the implementation, settlement fell apart, we had state
legislation, at each step sugar got a little bit more in the end that paid some
money, the phosphorous was way down, we moved on. The process was begun
by bringing the lawsuit, no matter who argues about what happened or whether
what happened was good or bad during the process of settling this out and
having a plan to deal with the phosphorous, the plan worked.
G: Would you describe your involvement in the process of setting up a federal South
Florida Restoration Task Force?
F: When I went into the government, somebody said to me,"If you like interagency
task forces, come and work in the government cause that's what it's all about."
In fact, that's a lot of what I did in the four years at the Interior Department and
then back at CEQ was about trying to get separate agencies and departments to
work together. It was all kind of made up. We invented this along the lines that
people in government were used to, but it was sort of tailor made for this
particular effort, and it was something that was really very informal. When you
think about it, this interagency task force sort of became a federal... we knew we
had to hook the state and other people into it, but it was an entity that had no
authority whatsoever. It relied entirely on the good faith of the people involved
and the cabinet secretaries who would make sure that their people would
cooperate and would join the effort. I don't know what lessons one draws about
which ones work and which ones fail and which ones succeed. I think this one
succeeded in developing a common plan within the Administration and getting
people excited and involved, and had an opportunity [where] no one felt that they
were being left out of the something, particularly once it got some momentum.
We just did it. We just called a meeting and said we got to have a task force, we
got to meet again next month, and we have to draw up a charter, and we have to
do this, we have to do that. The fact that the Corps was playing, it was at the
table, was essential, and you always have to have a leader. These things don't
happen unless you have one or two people who are really leading and pushing.
In this case, Babbitt was willing to take the leadership, put his weight behind it,
call other cabinet secretaries if necessary, say, "This is important, we're going to
do this, it's a new administration. [It was] terribly important politically, terribly
important for the environment. Very exciting, you have to be a part of this, I'm
leading this." Once he put his imprimatur on it, he had a reputation as a very
successful, strong public figure coming into the Administration to do good things.
People were either willing to go along with it or wanted to be a part of it. Carol
Browner, I think to some extent, felt as though EPA didn't want to be left out and
so there was a little bit of a competition there. Carol Browner didn't want to let
Bruce Babbitt have the sole lead here, so that helped because EPA wanted to be
right at the front of the line, at the head seat of the table, so they were really
going to contribute. Then the agriculture department got nervous because they
didn't see a big role for them, and they wanted to have people coming, "Why
aren't you including us? We have a big role in this, we can help with this."
Those were the Interior, the Corps, EPA, once those three agencies all had a
commitment to this, things kept being more and more viable, I guess you could
say. Sometimes you can try to start a task force and you have meetings every
couple of months for a year, nobody pays attention, and it goes away. This also
had a real momentum because we had money and we had time deadlines and
we had at least two agencies, the Corps and the Interior, that said, "We get this
study done we're going to go on to the next thing, something's going to happen,
we're going to ask for a lot of money, a lot of people are going to be involved in
this. You can be with us or can be left out," and people wanted to be in. Looking
back on it, this was one of the ones that took. Spread a certain amount of grass
seed around, some blades come up some don't. This one grew grass pretty fast
in the first year.
G: Did the idea for the task force originate with Secretary Babbitt?
F: Probably. It originated with Bonnie and me and Babbitt. We knew we had to
have an interagency something or other, so you just declare a task force and get
people together. A part of this was to make sure that the people who had to be
involved were involved. The other was to make sure that the Corps whose
client traditionally is the local sponsor, in this case south of state, South Florida
Water Management District that the Corps would have a client for the
restoration effort or if not the client, a client, which was us, the park, the
Everglades, the natural system. We felt that it would be very important that the
Corps wouldn't just say," Well, Bruce Babbitt's the client and the Interior
Department's the client." That there would be a client group that would define
the objectives for the Corps, and it would include the full range of federal
agencies, and that that would make this much more tenable for the Corps
because, by any stretch of the imagination, this was not a traditional Corps
project. So that was part of the thinking behind this also.
G: What were some of the biggest challenges that you faced as chairman of the
task force as this thing was getting started when you were trying to get these
agencies to work together?
F: Just motivating people, including people. I think you just have to have an
agenda, and you have to have a plan, and you have to communicate it to people
in a way that they get excited about it and see that there's something in it for
them. This is the business of efference. It's not ordering people to do things, it's
inspiring them to do things, threatening them to do things, encouraging them to
do things, giving them incentives and self-interest to do things. That's what the
challenge of any kind of multi-agency project is about. You have to be a
cheerleader, and you have to be a secretary, and you have to think about what
other people's incentives are for participating, so you have to be an advocate.
You have to be a planner and have a certain amount of, if not vision, at least an
idea of where you're going and here's what we're going to do next, here's what
we're going to do next, and just plug away at it. There's no rocket science to this,
it's just hard work that's all.
G: Were most of the things the task force were working on primarily related to the
F: Yes. The restudy was kind of a vehicle, that was the train we had at the
beginning. The task force was very hooked up to the restudy because without
the restudy, without a train running on a track going some place, we were going
to get any place. We could have task force meetings for years, talk about what
we would like the Everglades to look at, but without a legal and governmental
and policy vehicle to do something, the task force wouldn't have been able to do
G: What kind of functions was the task force performing is supporting the restudy
F: Basically, number one, trying to push the Corps; number two, trying to make sure
we had money; and number three, trying to define the objectives, the client
objectives, in a way that would be attractive, but would be environmentally safe.
I'm sure if I went back and looked at the agendas at some of these meetings, I
could tell you twelve things that it was doing at any one time. Basically, it was to
try to push forward as fast as possible, to reach a point where the Corps could
actually launch, or the federal government could launch with the state, a
restoration effort. The Corps process, it's a planning process, very cumbersome.
I remember we looked at this early on and said, "This is a six year process to get
to a plan, and we want to get to a plan in two and a half years, so how do we do
that?" One way is you have to make sure there's no problem in terms of the
communication between all the federal agencies. The Corps says "Alright, we're
going to come out, we do a preliminary study and then we have to get the views
of the federal agencies, that takes nine months or a year." Our position was "No,
that'll just take thirty days because we'll do that in advance, we'll do that through
the task force. So we can save nine months here, let's look at the next part of
your planning process."
G: Did it work that way?
F: It did work that way. I don't remember the time lines now, but the goal was to
have something that was truly minted in terms of the outline of the plan well
before the 1996 election. In other words, we had to squeeze five or six years or
more into two and a half years, or two and three quarters years. Part of that was
in 1993 and 1994, there wasn't much assurance that Clinton was going to get
reelected so we wanted to do this by the end of the four year term, and we
accomplished it. I don't remember the dates, but when did Gore go down to
Florida and announce this plan?
G: February of 1996.
F: February, yeah. So we beat our time line by five or six months. [End of Tape A,
side 1] So that was the goal was to try to get this thing not finished, planned, but
the outline of what would become a plan by summer of 1996.
G: What was the relationship between the task force and it's working group?
F: Now you're getting into details that... Like any task force you have meetings and
you have principals. The principals come to the task force meetings, they sort of
come to grace what they're departments have done in the interim. I don't
remember how many different levels there were. There was a working group,
there was a strategic group, maybe you can remind me of the different terms.
There's always a sort of A team, B team, C team. I don't even remember how
much of this developed. One of the key things was getting Rock Salt who had
been so committed to this when he was in the Corps to then, that was a little bit
later, but to come and be a coordinator for this. You're looking for working
groups, but you're also... you're looking for leadership at all different levels is
basically what it comes down to. You have a working group that's probably not
going to work very well unless it has some leaders, too. We had lots of leaders
in this. We had a lot of people within the federal agencies who really were willing
to shoulder a lot of responsibility to try to move this thing forward.
G: You guessed my next question. What was the thinking behind the creation of the
position of executive director and why was Colonel Rock Salt chosen for that
F: He was chosen because he'd been a terrific person to work with, and he was
very, very supportive of the whole project. Obviously, having a Corps person
when the Corps is sort of the engine that pulls the train, you'd really like to have a
guy who knows how to steer an engine around, and he knew that. He knew the
Corps culture, he knew the people, so he was an ideal person to do it.
G: Was there any negative reaction to having someone from the Corps in that role?
F: There may have been, I don't recall now. I think he was known as a pretty big
promoter of the project. So outside, I don't know. Internally I think we were very
happy to have him.
G: What was the impact at the beginning of expanding the task force to include
state, local, and tribal representatives?
F: Ultimately, this had to be a state-federal operation. It had to be a partnership of
some kind. If only because the Corps is ultimately responsive in its traditional
model, which couldn't be buried that much into a local sponsor and that state's
entity because the state had most of the legal authority over the land and the
water, certainly more than the federal government did. We always knew that
having a federal task force that was just federal, that was the first step, but that
ultimately to have a plan that would win the kind of support, bureaucratic,
internal, and congressional support for funding that we needed, it was going to
have to be a state-federal partnership. Eventually this had to be broadened to do
that. That made it much more difficult, but it had to be done. It meant you were
letting a lot of people who perhaps had interest in seeing the whole thing slowed
down or serve agricultural interests or urban interests more than environmental
interests were now at the table, it was part of the planning process. But that's
inevitable, that's the way these things work. That's the way the law is set up, and
that's what you have to do. If you want to do restoration, you have to have
stakeholders at the table. If there's one thing we learned in eight years, it's that
you don't get things like this done if you try to do it with only one-third of the
stakeholders at the table. So it made it more complicated for those
G: How much of a direct role did Secretary Babbitt have with the task force once it
was in place?
F: He did not have much [of a] direct role with the task force. He would occasionally
come to me at his chair meeting and make an opening statement, but he pretty
much let Bonnie and me do it and provided the support. He was instrumental to
getting it kicked off, and he was instrumental to keeping it going, but he didn't do
a lot on a day by day basis. After 1996, 1997, he started to go down Florida
much more, he got very interested. He'd make all kinds of trips to Florida.
Sometimes you wouldn't even know he was going, sometimes it had nothing to
do with the plan, he just liked to go to Florida on weekends. At least up until the
time I left Interior in 1997, he was not personally involved very much in terms of
his own time, but his support was central to it, and everybody knew that this was
his project, that he started it, he wanted it to happen. If we needed help from
him, he was there to help, he was there to do whatever was necessary. There
are lots and lots of things a cabinet secretary can do with a few assistant
secretaries that a task force can't do, so that was important. But he wasn't that
involved, it didn't require that much of his time, which was good. I think if the
cabinet sector has to get involved all the time, that means things aren't going
smoothly. As long as we didn't screw up or run this thing into the mud, he was
happy to let us do it, at least that's my recollection going back five or six years.
G: What would you describe as the primary contribution of the task force to the
F: Creating momentum that would force the Corps to keep moving ahead, and
defining the envelope in which the objectives of the restoration plan had to stay.
Without the task force, without the constant in put of the Interior, EPA, and
NOAA, you would have had a plan that probably really went off the track as a
restoration plan. One can argue, as I've seen in the newspapers lately, that the
plan did go or may have gone off or now it's on a track we don't know where it's
going to end up. I'm not sure I agree that some of that criticism was absolutely
justified. I'm not sure that some of it I agree with, but the task force basically set
the environmental objectives and kept pushing the Corps and kept everybody in
the Administration that had an interest in this feeling that they were on board. If
you have people who feel like they've fallen off the train, then that slows the
momentum of the train, too, because they want the train to come back. So that
was not unimportant, but defining objectives and keeping the time pressure, I'd
say, were the two major goals of the task force.
G: What have been the primary shortcomings of the task force?
F: Again, you're going back six or seven years. Anything that has no power and is
voluntary has problems. It's a little like the hydroponic vegetable, it's not growing
in soil so you really have to keep the water at a temperature. and you have to
keep adding nutrients all the time, otherwise the vegetable withers and dies. So
this is like the hydroponic vegetable. Basically a lot of care and feeding was
required. It was frustrating, it was very frustrating. You have to almost operate
by consensus so... Quaker meetings are not known for their vigorous decision
making power. Getting consensus, bringing people along, that's what this is
about. This is very difficult.
G: How important was the creation of the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable
South Florida by Lawton Chiles in 1994?
F: It was very important because it gave the federal side, the federal task force, the
federal agencies the opportunity to really seek broad public input from the state
side without just dealing with the state government or state agencies. The
Governor's Commission really was a way for us to have a state-federal
partnership more with the commission than with the state itself. The commission
was our arm in soliciting views about the objectives of restoration from the
Florida community, particularly the South Florida community. It actually was a
godsend in terms of making the state-federal partnership work in an
environmentally progressive way rather than having the federal government and
the state constantly at odds about how much of the benefits of the restoration
plan should go to non-environmental purposes. It was fortuitous, but it really
worked out very well, and I think it was very important to getting ultimately a
state-federal consensus to the extent that there was one about the objectives of
G: Was there a lot of interaction between the task force and the Governor's
F: Yes there was interaction, but it was, as I said, more of a matter of there being a
partner and playing a role as our partner that the state government would not
have been able to play all by itself.
G: As it pertains to Everglades issues, how would you characterize the relationship
between Secretary Babbitt and yourself on one hand, and Governor Lawton
Chiles of Florida on the other?
F: The relationship with Chiles' office was very good because he had some people
who had been at this for a long time, even under Graham, and key people were
very supportive of the restoration agenda. The problem was really with the South
Florida Water Management District. While one would have thought that Chiles
would pick very sympathetic people, sympathetic to restoration, for the Water
Management District, my recollection is that didn't always occur. It was more
with the Governor's representatives on the South Florida Water Management
District that there were tensions and problems, not so much with the Governor's
G: What were the kinds of problems that you're referring to?
F: The direction of a plan. The South Florida Water Management District was
interested in seeing the interests of its clients met, and it had never been, the
whole project was originally built around the South Florida Water Management
District, it was created, I think, as the local sponsor. It's interest in having some
of the benefits of the original project sacrificed to new environmental goals was
lukewarm at best. Even though Chiles, as I recall, appointed some pretty
sympathetic people to the district board over time as vacancies came up, there
were also a couple of people he appointed that weren't particularly sympathetic
to the restoration effort. They were an important state partner in this, necessary
state partner, and bringing them along with us, or dragging them along
depending on which year it was, was part of what had to be done. Sometimes it
was a little more anchor than following wind.
G: As assistant secretary, how much input, if any, did you have in the development
of the so-called Gore Plan that was announced in February of 1996 at
Everglades National Park?
F: Remind me what the Gore Plan was. Part of it was funding right?
G: Funding for land acquisition. It also included a proposal for a penny per pound
F: The Gore Plan basically was sort of a PR construct on top of the restoration plan
that we had been doing, except for the sugar tax. The sugar tax was a nod to the
environmental community who insisted that punishing sugar and getting the
money from them was absolutely key and the tax payers, public funds should not
have to pay for a substantial part of this, the sugar industry should pay for it. The
problem with that was that the sugar industry, arguably, should have paid and
paid more for phosphorous pollution, but it's not clear that the sugar industry
should have paid for everything that happened in South Florida. They have
benefitted from it for the last twenty years, but so have a lot of other people. But
that was just a pure political throw away for the environmental community, it had
nothing to do with real Administration policy.
G: At times, the Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service have been in
disagreement with one another over what restoration goals should be given
priority, for example addressing the needs of endangered species versus the
needs of the park. How did Secretary Babbitt, yourself, and other Interior
Department leaders in Washington deal with these intra-agency conflicts?
F: Try to work them out. Make people talk to each other, and, ultimately, try to get
those differences resolved within the department so that the department can
have a position within the federal community. But, that didn't always work. In a
way, we, the new people at Interior at the beginning of the Clinton Administration,
we had empowered the advocates for the park and the refuges within those
agencies who have been fighting an uphill battle to get anything out of the
operation of the Everglades water system for years saying, "The park is dying
and you're shorting the park and the refuge." People who had been advocates in
the parks or within the Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, we
empowered them. We said, "Now we're going to go out and try to do these
things that you've been wanting to do through a restoration plan." When,
sometimes, things were not going as well as they liked, they didn't always just
take their concerns internally within the department, they take them to the
newspapers or the environmental community who had been their allies in this.
So it was not always possible to avoid a situation where, in effect, what the
federal government was doing was being criticized publicly even with names
attached to it by people within the Park Service or the Fish and Wildlife Service,
or the scientific staffs of those agencies. It was annoying whenever you're a
government bureaucrat, which is what I was, it's annoying. On the other hand,
it's a way in which, internally, the bureaucracy communicates with itself. If Dick
Ring or somebody on the park staff, a scientist, really didn't feel like, at the
working group level or the science group level, their concerns were being heard
by people like me or Bruce Babbitt or somebody at the Corps of Engineers, and
that they didn't feel that there was enough of a communication system that they
could communicate that directly, which is one of the things that I had hoped to
create and did to some extent I think create, then they'd tell the Miami Herald.
As I said, to the bureaucrat that's annoying, but it's also part of the business of
government. It's part of an outlet which says that the people at the top who were
making the decisions need to listen more to these people who have a pretty good
idea of what the real objectives of the plan have to be, and if they're not going to
met, they want to say that. Sometimes, it's combat biologists, and, ultimately,
these decisions have to be made in a balance. Sometimes it's just the Park
Service trying to get an edge on the Fish and Wildlife Service or vice versa.
There's also something healthy and annoying about the fact that these people
who were somewhat empowered say hey, now we have a plan that's supposed
to really suit the park's interest, but the people at the top of the Interior
Department seem to be compromising that and they won't listen to me, so I'm
going to let them have it in the media. There's something pretty healthy about
that, and useful about that.
G: Some critics contend that the Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service have
not always been team players in the restoration process, often times putting the
interests of the park or of specific endangered species ahead of broader
restoration goals. How do you respond to that criticism?
F: It's true to some extent, but that's their mission. I don't know how you judge that
in the end. Certainly in the case of the Park Service, that's a very, very long
ingrained positive feature of the Park Service. It's got a professional bureaucracy
that defends the park within it's boundary vigorously against all political
interference and external threats to the park. There are some negatives to that
too. In the case of the Park Service, it's an agency that is not caught up with
dealing with the fact that a lot of threats from parks come from outside of the
park. The Everglades is a quintessential example of that because all of the key
decisions that are going to influence the future of Everglades Park are made
outside the Park Service. They're made by the state government, the South
Florida Water Management District, by agriculture, by state agencies, everything
about the quality, the quantity, and the timing of the water that flows through
Everglades National Park is not in the control of Everglades National Park. Of
course the Park Service, part of having a regional restoration plan is to try to get
a hold of those decisions in some way so that you make them in ways that
protect the park. Yeah, the Park Service people are good at defending their
interests, usually that's a good thing. One of the places it's more mixed is when
the real issues about the park are in a broader context, but it's the kind of thing
that you'd expect to see. To have the Park Service be a vociferous advocate for
protecting the park, this is normally a very good thing.
G: Would you describe your involvement in the development of the Water
Resources Development Act of 1996 which authorized the court restudy?
F: As I said, I haven't had a chance to go back and look at all this, but up until 1997,
I was very involved in shaping each stage of the way. I chaired the task force
and there were basically a handful of us who at the Corps or at Interior, EPA,
NOA, and the Justice Department who basically tried to make sure at each stage
that environmental objectives would be foremost and that the process would
move forward. That's about all I remember about the details of it.
G: Was WRDA 1996, then, viewed more as kind of a formality? Let's get this
F: It wasn't a formality, it was central to get this thing moving forward. This was the
vehicle for authorizing the whole process to go forward so it was essential and it
was going to be a Corps bill, that meant that we had to satisfy people on the Hill
and people in the state government without who's support this couldn't pass.
The stakeholders expanded to include not only the Water Management District
and the state, as well as the federal government, but also a whole set of
congressional interests and ultimately the Corps bureaucracy because this was
going to out compete a lot of their other projects for money in their budget. This
was an opportunity cost for them. These were projects other Corps constituents
would not be able to do. That means senators from Mississippi and other places
were not going to get projects funded if this thing got authorized and then got
funded. It was really [a] very important milestone.
G: The Corps of Engineers originally proposed a plan that would have completed
what they were calling the feasibility study or restudy by the end of 2001. Would
you describe the discussions that took place over the timing of the restudy and
how an agreement was reached and set July 1999 as the deadline for
F: It was the second administration version of our having to get the first scoping
study done in two and a half years. We wanted to have this thing finished and
embodied in legislation to the extent necessary and funded before the end of the
Clinton administration. I don't recall the time line exactly, but we backed it up so
that there would be basically a year to make sure that after the finalization to
have this embodied in legislation and appropriations which would mean the thing
would be legislated and funded before the end of the Clinton administration. So
it was just backing up from October 2000 to figure out that that might take a year.
G: How did you get the Corps to buy into this accelerated deadline?
F: I don't recall. We had some real fights over whether it could be done that fast,
but ultimately they agreed to do it, or were told to do it.
G: How would you evaluate the restudy process that the Corps established that
eventually concluded with the introduction of the Comprehensive Plan?
F: When you're talking about the restudy process, you're talking about that part of
the process that was authorized... You're into the technical, this was ten years
G: Yeah, the feasibility process that was essentially authorized in WRDA 1996.
How would you evaluate the process that the Corps created to do that?
F: Very cumbersome, but very streamlined compared to their usual processes. We
basically wanted to make sure that the environmental objectives stayed foremost
in the plan. To do that, it had to be a very, very quick process relatives to their
usual process, but it had to be very comprehensive and it had to have both the
substance and the appearance of taking everybody's views into account. My
recollection is that their process was pretty much crafted for this project.
G: Do you think the Corps did what you're describing? Did they bring in the
environmental concern, did they bring in the competing interests and take their
views into consideration?
F: I think so. We had a very broad net, as I recall, of priorities and interests. Maybe
I'm recalling the process that led up to the 1996 legislation rather than... because
I left the government in the Spring of 1997. At least up to that point, the Corps
had used a pretty broad net. The Governor's Commission helped do that. I'm
recalling going out with a set of priorities, fifty different priorities. I guess that's
1995, 1996? That's pre-WRDA. The answer of whether the Corps did that after
1997, I can't... I'm not sure I... I came back into this in late 1998, early 1999 with
the hope that the process was running well. It turned out more attention was
needed in 1999 and 2000 to keep it from collapsing. But I don't think I can speak
too well to what the Corps did in 1997 and 1998.
G: What eventually led to your departure from the Department of Interior?
F: I had enough for four years. Remember, in 1994, 1995 it didn't look like Clinton
was going to get reelected. So I designed a lot of things that I cared about was
working to try to finish by the end of 1996, or fail, or reach a milestone. I had
been operating on a four year time frame. There were personal considerations, I
had one son who was finishing highschool and I wanted to spend more time with
him. I was getting divorced. So I just thought, it's been a great run, four years is
enough, I'm going to take some time. I hadn't had any time off in ten years, so I
took six months off and didn't work.
G: What then led you back to become chairman of the Council of Environmental
Quality? How did that happen?
F: I had represented Al Gore as an outside lawyer after I left Interior in his campaign
finance investigation of his telephone calls from his office. I'd gotten to know him
a little bit better than I'd known him before and when Katie McGinty finally
decided to leave CEQ, he called me up and asked me to do it. I had been about
to go with some friends of mine to buy a satellite information processing
company and I was going to run that company. I did, among other things, a lot of
environmental work for the intelligence community which seems perhaps an
unusual thing. I was a little reluctant at that point. A lot of friends said you don't
want to go in the government the last two years, nothing ever happens the last
two years. It's a great job, but not now. But gore leaned on me a little bit and so
I said yes. It was a great job, it was an important job, so I said yes. It turned out
to be a terrific job. And Gore disappeared on the campaign trail for two years. I
ended up working for Clinton really not for Gore. Katie had sort of worked for
Gore, but I really ended up working for Clinton. He also discovered in the last
two years, started to think about his legacy and wanted to do a lot of
environmental things, new ones, new things, which I helped serve up, and then
there were a lot of things like Everglades that had been moving for years in
agencies. The new tailpipe emission standards and disclosure on toxins and
things that had been grinding away for years that finally came to fruition in the
last two years of the administration, so being at CEQ was a great job. I didn't
think Everglades was going to be one of those things. I thought we had minted
this twice in a plan in WRDA and that hopefully it was working and everybody
was sort of behind it and this would produce eventually an actual restoration plan
that everybody could be happy with. I didn't anticipate spending time on
Everglades when I went back to CEQ.
G: Did you?
F: I did because like any Corps process, as time goes on, the Corps tends to... it's
like always flying an airplane into a side wind. After a while you're just sort of
drifting and drifting in one direction and maybe imperceptibly you sort of don't
realize that your course has changed. I think that the process led to a result that
had some real holes in it, some shortfalls. Michael Davis who was at the Corps
who's a real hero of this was trying desperately to keep it on track, but he was
constantly being pulled by Corps people away from the environmental objectives,
and the environmental community at the very end raised a huge fuss about some
things that were not so important and some things that were very important and
threatened that this would sort of fall apart at the very end. In fact, in the last
eighteen months at CEQ, I did get involved, although a lot of this, my own
personal time on this was less than sort of helping Bill Leary who had on this for
me, with me, in Interior and came to CEQ. He didn't come to see Hugh primarily
to do Everglades, but he ended up doing a lot of this. So it was really my
empowering Bill to do our best to keep this on track and going to meetings with
environmentalists and meetings with Michael and the Corps and Justice and
EPA. But I didn't expect to have to do that at CEQ, I didn't expect that this ball
would come bouncing back into a different auditorium.
G: What were some of the holes or problems that you saw with the Corps plan when
it first came out?
F: I don't have a detailed recollection of this kind of thing, these issues. Basically it
was about whether there would be enough guarantee language or in a
document, in legislation, whether there would be numbers for actual water flow.
Whether something that promised benefits across a spectrum of users would
actually deliver the environmental benefits or whether they would get pushed to
the side. I can remember hours of meetings about whether one word needed to
go some document. The environmental community was along with some people
in the administration, people in the Park Service were the watchdogs to say wait,
you have to drag this airplane back onto the original course. I think that was very
important. There are threats ultimately not to support the plan at the very end
unless certain changes were made, it was very important.
G: There was a pretty good deal of tension, at least at points, between the Corps
and the Park Service over the plan when the draft plan came out in October of
1998. The Park Service actually issued a forty-four page critique that strongly
criticized the plan that was followed by some independent scientists that came
out and condemned the plan. What was the response within the administration
to what was an interagency conflict over Everglades restoration?
F: My reaction was a combination of annoyance and wanting to try to pick up the
criticism and respond to it, and respond to it by making changes where
necessary. It's typical of the Park Service, but if the Park Service really had
problems, then the plan needed changes or needed guarantees or needed
amendments. It was really working to see what was valid and what we could do
about it. The independent scientists who criticized the plan, my recollection of
that is that those were people who really didn't know anything about it. It was
part of sort of a PR effort to bring people in, good people, some very good
people, who were not really knowledgeable about any of this, and looked at the
process and said we don't think the process has been good. These were not
people who understood who the process would work or what was necessary to
get to where we had gotten to. I think that was sort of more of an image issue or
an advocacy issue. The Park Service critique I think we tried to take seriously.
G: Why do you think the Chief's Report that accompanied the Comprehensive Plan
in Congress became so controversial?
F: I don't remember. Again, I have a hard time distinguishing these documents.
The Chief's Report being...
G: Lieutenant General Joe Ballard's accompanying report that made some promises
about water allocation.
F: There was the plan, the Chief's Report, the transmission letter in the Chief's
Report, again this is all a little bit of old history. But in every stage, there were
people watching like hawks to make sure that their interest was protected. So
every document was litigated, in effect, by interest groups because important
decisions were being made.
G: Was there a lot of real concern within the administration that either the Park
Service or the environmental community might walk away from this plan and in
effect kill it that way?
F: Sure. Ultimately, to have a plan that we could be proud of and to get
congressional approval and funding and make the thing go forward, we couldn't
do that against the pitch opposition of the environmental community, so we had
to persuade those people that what we ended up doing was going to work. I
would say that's true of other interest groups too. It's true of the state and may
be true of the Corps. In other words, you couldn't have a Corps plan that the
Corps hierarchy was thoroughly opposed to. It wasn't just that the environmental
community had a veto, there were a number of... Interior had a veto in a sense
because people were looking to Interior to be sort of a lead at many points. The
Corps probably had a veto, the state had a veto, the environmental community
had a veto. This is a very rough cartoon, I don't mean to say it exactly that way,
but this is a cartoon sketch of the important political interests. I don't think that
the sugar industry, the agricultural history of Florida had a veto. It had a lot of
clout, but they probably couldn't have prevented this from happening, and at
some point they realized that which is why they went along with this process in
the hopes that that was the way to serve their interests best, that they weren't
going to be able to prevent this from happening. The state could have and the
Corps could have and Interior could have and the environmental community
could have. If any of those major interest groups were united and vehemently
opposed, probably this thing would not have gone forward.
G: To what extent, if at all, were you involved in the development of the WRDA 2000
legislation and the effort to get that legislation approved in Congress?
F: I wasn't involved personally that much in drafting and wording. Bill Leary was
very involved and so through him I was involved. Then ultimately in trying to
make sure that it got supported by the administration, pretty involved at that level,
although it'd be with congressional people.
G: How would you evaluated the final Comprehensive Plan that was approved in the
WRDA 2000 legislation?
F: I worked on this for eight years, I'm biased. I'm proud of what we accomplished.
I think probably we did about as much as could be done within the realm of
political reality to get our restoration plan developed and funded. Not only is the
plan not perfect, I think there are serious issues about whether it will deliver the
restoration benefits either as soon as or in the volume that we hope which the
plan ostensibly promises. Whether that promise is realized I think is, as I said, I
think the jury is still out. But I don't know any way to have done this in seven
years to have gone from basically nowhere, no vision, at some point even in the
second year there was a notion of these huge canals down the middle of the
EAA and a huge amount of work went into this in science and then some people
said you know, we know a little about this and that'll never work. There was no
plan, there was no idea of any of the many elements of this. People didn't
appreciate how fast the outside of the Everglades was being eaten up with land
development. We were writing on a clean slate in 1993. To do what we did in
seven years, I think we did as much as we could, humanly possible. There's a
history in South Florida of giant plans that turn out to be mistakes in retrospect,
and I suppose that's true of many Corps projects. We'd be better off in
retrospect if the projects had never been done. Has this turned out to be
something that even five or ten years from now people look back on and say this
has really made the situation worse? I don't think so, but people may look back
and say we spent a huge amount of money, we've done some important things
for water supply in urban areas and around the edges we did some
environmental improvements, but overall, it really wasn't worth the money or the
candle, and we shouldn't have done this. But I don't think that because the
vision was wrong. The plan didn't live up to the vision and probably shouldn't
have been executed at all. I don't know whether people will say that in ten years.
I hope I'll be around to see. There was huge controversy over the phosphorous
settlement. I feel like I've lived long enough to know that my instincts were right
about that from the beginning, that worked. What will people say about the plan?
I don't know. I think we took our best shot and we'll just have to see if it really
delivers or not.
G: What do you see as being some of the biggest obstacles as they move forward
with the implementation stage?
F: Lack of leadership within the federal government. Having spent a lot of time,
over eight years, fighting these battles, I know how important a lot of small, not
very visible battles are. Battles that determine a way aren't visible outside of the
federal bureaucracy and there are very few people who care about this. That
means you have to have very committed people inside fighting every inch of the
way and money is never not an issue, there's always not enough money, it's not
coming fast enough so people are going to make choices, let's defer this, let's do
that. What gets deferred may be the environmental project, some project.
Implementation is going to be key, and that means you have to have people who
will really stick up for the environmental side in the agencies, in the court, in the
Interior Department, even in the state government. I don't know whether those
kind of people are there now or certainly in the political ranks of Interior and other
places, or if they are, whether they will be willing to stick their necks out and be
willing to fight for the right kind of implementation. That's the thing that I really
think is the biggest, apparently it's just lack of internal leadership.
G: As we move forward with implementation, how should we evaluate the success
or failure of this plan?
F: I suppose by whether it makes things better. I think you have to look on the
ground and see what happens. If natural water flows are indeed improved, if
habitat is restored, then you have to have some milestones or objective
indicators to be able to judge it by. In the case of phosphorous, you can
measure the phosphorous in the water. You can argue about concentrations and
how you take the measurement and where, but there's a pretty objective way to
tell whether you've cleaned up the water. Obviously the set of indicators for a
Comprehensive Plan like this is going to be a much larger group of indicators and
more diverse. I think you have to see what it does for the environment basically.
Species restoration, habitat restoration, natural flows, health of the remaining
Everglades system. [End of Tape A, side 2]
G: I'd like to mention some specific groups and organizations and ask you to
comment on their overall impact on the Everglades restoration effort, starting with
the Corps of Engineers.
F: They're the engine that pulls the train. They're the implementing agency, by law
and history, they occupy the feet of, they're running the water there. It's a
constant tug of war to get them to, orient them to do environmental restoration,
but they're essential. They are the locomotive of anything that happens there.
G: The South Florida Water Management District.
F: As the local sponsor, unfortunately while they're very much in the core of camp,
they tend to represent the people who benefitted from the construction and
operation of all these works that we're trying to modify or in a few cases undo.
There is a huge natural tension between the objectives of the federal interagency
task force and the objectives of the South Water Management District. It had to
exist through this entire time period. On the other hand, the board's policy
making organ are the board members and we had a lot of very supportive and
sympathetic board members appointed at various times during the last ten years.
But the district basically institutionally had very little interest in restoration.
That's a harsh thing to say, but... There were times obviously when a majority of
the board really was very supportive of strong restoration objectives in the plan,
but basically they were the caboose on this train.
G: Do you think that's still true today?
F: I don't know. I have almost no involvement in the politics of this in the last two
G: The sugar industry.
F: I think the agricultural industry at some point in about 1995, 1996 decided that
they weren't going to be able to stop this and so they better get on the train and
try to influence it as much as possible so that their own interests were protected,
and at some point I think also realized that probably a lot of this restoration could
be done in ways that did not absolutely torpedo the interests of the agriculture,
certainly not of sugar. That's partly because by the early 1990s, people came to
realize that getting rid of the sugar industry really wasn't the solution to
Everglades restoration. There were a lot of other problems that agriculture had
too much power over water or was putting out too much pollution, but you
couldn't just wish these guys to go away and you wouldn't wish them to go away
in the sense that most alternative land use is for that land, for the EAA, would be
more pernicious to the environment than sugar. So punishing or corralling the
sugar industry was not something that was legitimately a goal of the plan and the
sugar industry could live with a lot of what most people in South Florida wanted
to do. So they became much more [cooperative]. Instead of being an adversary
like in the early 1990s, they became a cooperative party. A cooperative party not
necessarily trying to slow down restoration, just a cooperative party trying to
make sure that their interests were protected. If their interests meant that the
government didn't take too much land or if it bought land from them it would pay
a very hefty price, then that's something they wanted to slow down. But it was
more about their own interests than being opposed to restoration.
G: The Miccosukee tribe.
F: The Miccosukee tribe was a partner in this. Dexter Lehtinen's a very unique
individual. Whether his representation had to do with the tribe's interest, that's
hard to call, but obviously Dexter's representation of the tribe was a fairly serious
thorn in everybody's side. For the good, their entitled to the best representation
that they can get and they chose him, so who's to gain say that. But not a
constructive partner most of the time.
G: Why do you say that?
F: Because of Dexter. He was just a very hard individual to work with and he
seems more interested in causing... not a team player certainly, but I can't
characterize his motives. He was just a disruptive factor in this once he went to
work for the Miccosukee. Other people might have a different view. People
basically ignored their interests for a hundred years, they're entitled to vigorous,
effective representation. It's hard to criticize that, but Dexter was not a
constructive influence in this at all from my point of view.
G: The environmental community.
F: Essential to support this, to get national support, national interest, ultimately
congressional support and funding. Their sort of singular focus in 1993 and 1994
and even 1995 on the penny a pound sugar tax I thought was silly and
misplaced, but in and after 1996, their support was important and their criticism
as I said before was very important to making sure the plan had some integrity.
One of the big problems of the environmental community is it just doesn't have
the technical expertise that exists in a lot of other places, and very, very few
people in the environmental community had any technical expertise to be
constructive in the process of the planning. But there are a few people who had
that expertise and they relied on people like park scientists who would
communicate if they were unhappy both with the public and us, and the
environmental community, so the environmental community is sort of riding on
the expertise of a few other people to sort of watchdog the plan. I think at the
very end, the last year, there were a few people who developed enough
expertise that they could really come in and challenge us, and that was
important. In 1995 and 1996, from my point of view the environmental
community was largely sort of not connected to this. When the real planning, the
1996 plan was sort of being minted, they were kind of AWOL, still focused on the
sugar tax and another run on the penny a pound sugar tax and punishing the
sugar industry and we were sort of two years past that. In the 1996 to 1999
period, their support or their critique was very important.
G: My final question. Back in 1987 while president to the Wilderness Society, you
stated "If we can develop a restoration program for the Everglades system, it will
be a powerful national precedent." What are the most important lessons that we
can learn from the Everglades experience that can be applied to other natural
resource management contexts?
F: Have you interview Jim Pipkin?
F: I think that lessons learned is you have to really have a realistic vision of what
you want to do. You have to have a clear vision and a realistic idea of how far
you can go to implement that vision, so you really have to know what you're
aiming for. It has to be attractive, but it has to be realistic, that's number one.
Number two, you have to bring the effective stakeholders into it. You can't do
regional ecosystem restoration with a lot of important interests outside the
process, I don't think. Third, you have to take their interests into account to keep
them in the tent. That means you're going to have to make compromises, it
means you're not going to have something that any one stakeholder group feels
that they won 100 percent. [Fourth], you also have to have that because these
plans are expensive and you're going to have to find a lot of public money, and
that means you not only have to have fairly broad support from within the region,
but you have to have national support. So there has to be a sense that for this
size that this is a national priority whether it's solving the Old Grove Forest
problem in the northwest or other big ecosystem restoration projects, there has to
be public interest and support at the national level. Otherwise, to the extent that
any kind of congressional authorization or funding is necessary either for the
project or around it to keep it going, you're not going to get that because putting
money and emphasis into something in Florida has an opportunity cost not just
for the Corps... If it spends $3 billion in Florida, that's $3 billion it's not going to
spend in the Mississippi or in the Sacramento Bay delta. Looking across the
federal government as a whole, that's money and attention that is not going to go
to people who have other worthy projects. Then I think you need leadership.
This stuff doesn't happen without leadership, and by leadership I mean sort of
people who will take it and run at the level of Bruce Babbitt and Bonnie and me
who are at the sort of second level, but you need to find leaders who are the
ones who [are] not quite so visible. You need the Bill Learys and the Michael
Davises and the Rock Salts and a lot of other people like that. As I said to you
before off the tape, I think Michael Davis and Bill Leary, if anybody is really the
architects of this, they're sort of the architect and the general contractor. They
not only were there when the vision was developing and minting and imagining
how we'd get four or five years down the road, but they were there at the end.
They made it happen all the way through in different roles. I think you need
leadership at a lot of different levels or everything else is for want basically.
G: End interview.