Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fed-Fighting Governor Served Wyoming Well

I've written before of my admiration for Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a Democrat with a strong independent streak who did the Cowboy State proud by bucking Washington when it was in the state's best interests. I'm disappointed, therefore, to learn that he won't be seeking a third term. A non-conformist to the end, Freudenthal shrugged off any talk of a "legacy" at the announcement. "We don't do that legacy stuff," he said. "This legacy stuff is incredibly dangerous."

He does leave a legacy, though, which was probably best summed-up by State Sen. Eli Bebout, a former political rival who narrowly lost to Freudenthal in the 2002 governors race. "I think he really tried to represent Wyoming against the intrusiveness of the federal government, and he did that," Bebout said. That led to clashes with Washington over energy policy, reintroduced wolves, the sage grouse (which was granted some new federal protections this week, but not "threatened or "endangered" status, thank goodness) and, most famously, the Preble's meadow jumping mouse.

The mouse is listed as a protected federal species in Colorado, but not in Wyoming, not coincidently, thanks to Freudenthal's persistent efforts to fight the listing and expose the fraudulent science behind it. Maybe this absurd split decision never would have occurred if Colorado had a governor who was more protective of the state's interests, vis-a-vis the federal government.

And unlike Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, who has waged regulatory war on the traditional energy sector, while touting "new energy economy" fantasies, Freudenthal managed to strike a sensible balance between environmental protection and economic development in Wyoming, leaving the state on a sound financial footing. "When we had huge energy development, he did the balancing act," said Sen. Kathryn Sessions, a Democrat from Cheyenne. "He tried to preserve those things that we hold most dear in this state -- our water, our air, our mountains, our open space," she told the Casper Star-Tribune, while serving as a "balancer between all of that and industry and money and all the stuff on the other side."

Freudenthal leaves quite a legacy, even if he characteristically would never brag on it. I hope for the Cowboy State that it finds a worthy successor.

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