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William Myers III may have returned to Washington, D.C., but he’s keeping a little bit of the West with him. There is the family home in Boise, Idaho, which he’s holding on to for when his tour of duty is done. And Myers may look like a Washington lawyer in his formal office in the Department of Interior, but he’s still wearing cowboy boots. Myers has spent his legal career moving back and forth between the open spaces of Idaho and Wyoming and the corridors of Washington. Although no frontier native (he grew up in Virginia), he has adopted the West and western issues in his professional life. Myers went to the University of Denver Law School, attracted by courses in natural resources law. After graduating he moved to a seven-person law firm in Sheridan, Wyo., a town of only 12,000. Since then, he has worked for former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., had stints at the departments of Justice and Energy, and lobbied for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council. Four years ago, he left Washington once again to move his family to Boise, where he worked for the 250-lawyer Denver-based firm Holland & Hart, which specializes in land and natural resource issues. “When you get on the ground, a lot of time people there can work together — the local environmentalists can work with the local rancher community to resolve problems, because they go to the same barbers, the same coffee shops, the same schools,” says the 46-year-old Myers. “It’s not until you retract things to Washington, D.C., and you have all sides battling for membership and dues and air time, that things become intractable.” As solicitor for the Department of Interior, Myers has responsibility for the legal elements of the agency’s wide-ranging responsibilities, including Indian affairs, national parks, federal land management, and mineral and mining rights, among others. “I get to see everything the department is involved in, essentially, and because the department itself has jurisdiction over one out of every four acres in the United States, it covers a lot of territory,” he says. Myers is well-schooled in federal land and grazing issues. He was the point man for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council, a coalition of ranching interests, in efforts to battle Clinton era grazing regulations. The coalition ultimately lost a Supreme Court case on the issue, and a bill it backed made it only through the House. But Myers solidified his Washington reputation during that contentious period. “He was a good lawyer, and that is very good in a very technical world like public lands legislation,” says Fran Boyd, a lobbyist at Meyers & Associates, who represents the American Sheep Industry Association. The association was a member of the Public Lands Council. “Second of all, he was a very easygoing guy. He was a very disarming fellow. He kept everyone on an even keel.” Myers may now face difficulty because of his history as a lobbyist and a private practitioner working for the ranching community. That past puts him in good stead with one side of the aisle, but his pro-ranching philosophy has not always won him environmental admirers. The Idaho Conservation League recently was on the opposite side of Myers, who chaired an Idaho board that advocated more local involvement in and control of federal lands in the state. “It’s like the Sagebrush Rebellion from the 1970s — a whole sense that local states should take over the national public lands, and he was very much in support of that,” says John McCarthy, conservation director of the group. “I think that will be reflected in his enforcement of the national laws. I think he will defer to state agencies, or any kind of local entity.” Ranching interests say that Myers is fair, and that his position as solicitor doesn’t assure them a win on every issue. He says he won’t have problems working with environmentalists and listening to their concerns. “Lawyers do this all the time,” Myers says. “We are used to talking to the other side.” As for right now, he has no plans for major changes. “I didn’t come in with a playbook. My immediate plan is to come in and get my feet under me.”

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