Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment: Who is Harris Sherman?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Having had his first pick (Homer Wilkes) back out as Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, President Barack Obama turned to Harris Sherman, Colorado’s longtime natural resources chief. Sherman was confirmed by the Senate October 9, 2010. Although some environmentalists expressed concern about Sherman over the state’s industry-friendly “roadless rule,” the new overseer of the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service would be hard pressed to provoke the kind of controversy that came with Mark Rey, a former timber industry lobbyist, who held the post during the Bush administration.

A native of Colorado, Harris received his Bachelor of Arts from Colorado College and his law degree from Columbia University Law School.
His leadership of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began in 1975, when he was appointed by then-Governor Richard Lamm. He remained in the post until 1987, when he left state government and took a position in the Denver office of Arnold & Porter. There, he served as managing and senior partner for 20 years, focusing on natural resources, environmental, water, public land, real estate, and Indian law.
In 2007, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter asked Sherman to lead DNR once again. As executive director, he oversaw Colorado’s energy, water, wildlife, parks, and state lands programs. Harris also served as the Director of Compact Negotiations for the Colorado Interbasin Compact Commission, chairman of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and co-chair of the governor’s Forest Health Advisory Council. In addition, he was a member of the Colorado Wildlife Commission, the Colorado Ground Water Commission and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
Sherman’s biggest controversy involved the state’s industry-friendly “roadless rule,” which sparked protests from environmentalists who favored the federal government’s more protective plan to keep logging and development out of forests. When Sherman was nominated by Obama, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership used the announcement as an opportunity to ask Sherman to uphold the federal roadless rule, and publicly disown Colorado’s version. 
Other environmental groups welcomed Sherman as head of the Forest Service. “Over the past two years, Sherman showed bold leadership in protecting our land, water, and wildlife resources from the impacts of oil and gas development,” said Environment Colorado advocate Matt Garrington. “Sherman’s leadership was key in passing strong protections of our natural resources in the face of unbalanced energy development.”
Sherman has also served on a wide variety of public and private agencies and organizations. He has been chairman of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission, the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board, and the Denver Regional Air Quality Council. He has served as a Commissioner of Mines and commissioner of the Denver Water Board, as well as a trustee of Colorado College and the Boettcher Foundation.
For several decades, Sherman has been active in land conservation efforts with the Nature Conservancy, Colorado Open Lands, and The Trust for Public Land.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Harris D. Sherman, Executive Director (Colorado Department of Natural Resources)


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