Gale Norton was confirmed as the 48th Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior by the U.S. Senate in January 2001. Norton is the first female to head the 151-year-old federal agency.
Before becoming Interior Secretary, Norton was senior counsel at Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber, P.C.
Norton served as Attorney General of Colorado from 1991 to 1999. In that capacity, she represented virtually every agency of the Colorado state government. She argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and other appellate courts, and testified numerous times before congressional committees.
As Attorney General, Norton worked with legislators and citizens to resolve matters such as hospital ownership, gasoline pricing, and antitrust enforcement. She litigated state and federal constitutional issues, defended the state against federal mandates and won a major court victory pressuring the federal government to adequately clean up hazardous wastes at Rocky Flats and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. Norton also served as Chair of the Environment Committee for the National Association of Attorneys General. As a negotiator of the $206 billion national tobacco settlement, Norton represented Colorado and 45 other states as part of the largest lawsuit settlement in history.
Norton was appointed by President George Bush to the Western Water Policy Commission. She also served as Environment Committee Chair for the Republican National Lawyers Association and General Counsel of the Colorado Civil Justice League. The National Federalist Society has honored her as Young Lawyer of the Year, and the Colorado Women's Bar Association has awarded her their highest honor - the Mary Lathrop Trailblazer Award.
Prior to her election as Attorney General, Norton served in Washington, D.C. as Associate Solicitor of the U.S. Department of the Interior, overseeing endangered species and public lands legal issues for the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. She also worked as Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and, from 1979 to 1983, as a Senior Attorney for the Mountain States Legal Foundation.
From 1983 to 1984, she was a National Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution where she conducted research on innovative ways to control air pollution.
Norton graduated magna cum laude from the University of Denver in 1975 and earned her law degree with honors from the same university in 1978.
She and her husband, John Hughes, are avid hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. They reside near Washington, D.C.