U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Jim Martin '73, whose love of the outdoors grew, in part, from his experiences
on the the family farm and at Knox's Green Oaks Biological Field Station,
has been named regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Martin came to Knox from Eureka, Illinois, to study biology. His first job after graduation was as a park ranger at Arches and Canyonlands State Park. "As I watched the decisions being made about how parks were managed, how difficult issues were addressed, it always looked like the lawyers were at the center of it, either causing the problem or trying to solve the problem," Martin says. "I was very interested in public lands and natural resources and I figured maybe being a lawyer was the way to go."
He received his law degree from Northwestern Law School at Lewis and Clark College. Prior to joining the EPA, Martin led the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado School of Law, and, for 10 years, was senior attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund in Boulder, Colorado, and Oakland, California. He was chief of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for three years before being appointed head of Colorado's Department of Natural Resources.
Martin says one of his most memorable experiences during those years was serving as a member of the oil and gas conservation commission. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter wanted to reform the commission and bring the resources that applied to exploration and production of gas and oil in the state up-to-date. They hadn't been reformed in 30 years. "It proved to be an 18 month administrative battle, with 20 days of hearings and tens of thousands of pages of exhibits and testimony, which were quite vigorously debated on all sides," says Martin. "It was a very difficult and hard-fought set of issues. It is still a work in progress, but looking back, I can say that we have found the right balance -- we're going to have a vibrant industry while protecting human health and the environment."
In a release announcing Martin's EPA appointment, Governor Ritter says, "[Jim Martin] is one of the most honorable people in public service. He is widely respected and trusted by people with diverse and often opposing viewpoints because he is able to work through complex issues and find areas of common ground."
Martin credits his Knox experience, in part, for giving him the skills to work through those complex issues. "I learned, through both my political science and science courses, an analytical approach to problems that allows me to break them down and find out what's really at the root and whether there is a set of actions I can take to at least begin to resolve them. I think that is certainly something I began to learn at Knox."
As Region 8 Administrator, Martin will oversee the EPA's activities in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, and 26 tribal nations. "I feel a very strong obligation to do what we can to help the tribal nations develop their capacity and address significant issues on their reservations. Climate change is also at the top of the list. That's a huge issue that if we don't grapple with now, our children and grandchildren will wonder what the heck we've been doing. And there's the issue of air quality and human health protection," adds Martin. "I certainly won't be bored."