Back in March, Eric Schaeffer made a big media splash by resigning after years as head of enforcement at the U.S. EPA over differences with the Bush administration’s environmental policies. But the truth is that Schaeffer was just the tip of the iceberg. From senior career administrators to lawyers to leading scientists, a number of longtime, highly respected officials have left environmental jobs in the administration in protest. Take James Furnish, a politically conservative deputy chief of the U.S. Forest Service with more than 30 years of experience, who left over the administration’s pro-development philosophy and unwillingness to listen to other perspectives. Or Martha Hahn, Idaho state director for the Bureau of Land Management, who quit after she was told that she would be transferred to a previously nonexistent job in New York. Or former EPA staff attorney Michele Merkel, who submitted her resignation papers because of EPA Administrator Christie Whitman’s decisions to play down enforcement in favor of voluntary compliance. White House officials chalk up the resignations to the usual staff tensions when a new administration takes over, but environmentalists see a more telling trend.
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