Letters from the West

Idaho farm groups advance Bangerter for Ag forest post

Idaho farm groups are promoting a Melba rancher for a key post overseeing the U.S. Forest Service in the Trump administration.

The Idaho Food Producers are lobbying to get Layne Bangerter, currently serving as deputy associate administrator at the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, appointed as the Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary for environment and natural resources.

Bangerter could not be reached for comment.

The job would put him in charge of the Forest Service and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services and bring $165,000 a year.

The Food Producers, which represents most of the state’s agricultural groups put out an alert April 6 urging its members to write the Idaho congressional delegation in support of Bangerter for the post. So far no announcement has been made about the appointment.

“We think Layne’s extremely qualified in this area,” said Rick Waitley, Food Producers executive director.

Bangerter faces tough competition for the post. A wide coalition of groups, led by the American Forest Resource Council, support Erica Rhoad, House Resources Committee Staff Director for the Subcommittee on Federal Land. Rhoad is a former lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and the Society for American Foresters.

The appointment is not expected to be made until former Georgia Gov. George Ervin “Sonny” Perdue III is confirmed as agriculture secretary.

Waitley said the letters were sent to Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo’s staff who planned to carry directly to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Purdue once he’s confirmed.

Bangerter, 55, headed the Trump campaign in Idaho that carried the state in a landslide. He served as an adviser to Donald Trump Jr. on western natural resource issues and traveled with Trump Jr. and Vice President Mike Pence during the campaign.

He worked for Crapo for 13 years, helping him pass the Owyhee Public Land Management Act. He worked with ranchers, local officials, conservationists, hunters and anglers, motorized recreation groups, outfitters and others to hammer out the details of the bill that protected 500,000 acres of wilderness, more than 300 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, and allowed ranchers to keep their operations viable.

He also worked with Crapo on forest, wolf, salmon and water issues. Before joining Crapo’s staff, Bangerter worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services as a supervisory wildlife biologist.

“Layne has unique on-the-ground experience with how federal policies affect land, water and people,” Crapo said upon his appointment as a presidential assistant to Trump. “His insight will be extremely valuable to the Trump administration.”

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker