Governor Terry Branstad's office confirmed today that former Republican lawmaker Chuck Gipp will be the next director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
When announcing his resignation just before Memorial Day, outgoing DNR director Roger Lande hinted that Gipp would replace him. At the time, Branstad's staff could not confirm the speculation, but here's an excerpt from today's press release.
"I am excited to name Chuck Gipp as the new director of this important department," said Branstad of Gipp, who most recently was serving as the Deputy Director of the DNR. "Chuck has an outstanding record of service to this state, and I am pleased he will use his knowledge and talents at the DNR. Iowa has some of the most beautiful scenery, amazing waterways and fertile land in the country, and Chuck shares my belief in protecting these precious resources.
"Chuck is an avid outdoorsman, and fully understands the critical role DNR plays in the success of our hunting and fishing industries, and he will work with their advocates to further promote this important part of the Iowa economy," Branstad concluded.
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds added, "Chuck Gipp brings a wealth of experience to this position, and he will use his passion for Iowa's natural resources as his guide in serving Iowans. Chuck's hands-on, proactive approach will serve the department well."
Gipp, 64, was a long-time member of the Iowa House of Representatives from Decorah, first elected in 1990. Gipp rose to serve as House Majority Leader in 2003. He served in the House until 2008, when he did not seek re-election.
"This is a great opportunity to serve the people of Iowa and protect our natural resources with common sense solutions," said Gipp. "I look forward to working with the people of Iowa as we together promote and protect Iowa's land, lakes, waterways and air."
Since July 2011, Gipp has held the number two position at the Iowa DNR. Before that he headed the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's Division of Soil Conservation. He should have no trouble being confirmed by the Iowa Senate, having served in the Iowa House for 18 years.
I share the concerns expressed by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement regarding Gipp's commitment to protecting air and water quality in Iowa. His legislative record indicates that he leans against establishing or enforcing pollution regulations for industrial and agricultural corporations. Lande hired Gipp as Iowa DNR deputy director shortly after Branstad forced out the DNR's top environmental regulator.
I would love to be proven wrong about Gipp's intentions for the DNR.
On a related note, Iowa CCI's press release slamming the Gipp appointment included these facts:
Factory farm construction in Iowa has skyrocketed this year, and CCI members across the state are leading the fightback in 16 separate counties. Iowa CCI members have successfully stopped five factory farms from being constructed in Jefferson, Floyd, and Dallas County since January 1 of this year. Last week, the Greene County Supervisors voted to recommend denial of another proposed factory farm after CCI members in Greene county mobilized public opposition to the proposal.
There have been more than 800 manure spills since 1995 and more than 572 polluted waterways, according to DNR records.
58% of Iowans say "we need stronger laws to stop factory farms from polluting our air and water," according to an April 24-26 telephone poll of 633 active voters conducted by Public Policy Polling.
UPDATE: Speaking to Radio Iowa, Gipp responded to Iowa CCI's criticism.
"If you look at my legislative record, it's anything but what they claim it is," Gipp said of Iowa CCI.
"In fact, some of the votes they claim that were taken were probably procedural votes with people attempting to put non-germane amendments on policy bills that it wasn't germane to." Gipp was appointed the deputy director of the D.N.R. last summer. Prior to that, he worked in the Iowa Department of Agriculture.
The Iowa CCI release refers to Gipp as a "factory farm insider." "They're entitled to their opinion. I'm entitled to what my legislative record actually is," Gipp responded. "I was involved heavily in providing environmental improvement whether it be at landfill operations, leaking underground petroleum storage tank legislation, or waste tires."
Gipp also noted he helped create the Environment First Fund. "So, I'll stand by my record and (CCI) can say whatever they want."
I can't recall anyone in the activist community describing Gipp as an ally on environmental issues, either before or after his retirement from the Iowa House.