WASHINGTON – Mary A. Bomar, President Bush's nominee to head the National Park Service, appeared headed for a quick confirmation as senators praised the British native Thursday for her professionalism and history with the agency.
Bomar, who has served as the Park Service's Northeast regional director since 2005, offered few opinions on current park service policy or the agency's budget problems at her Senate confirmation hearing. Bomar said she would help the agency "search for creative ways of working within our means."
If confirmed, Bomar will replace Fran Mainella, who announced this summer that she would step down for family reasons.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas, the Republican chairman of the subcommittee on national parks, predicted that most senators will support her nomination.
"This will move fast," Domenici said after the hearing.
Bomar was born and raised in England and became a U.S. citizen in 1977. She has worked in numerous parks, serving as acting superintendent at Rocky Mountain National Park and as the first superintendent at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, among other jobs.
The Bush administration's handling of the national parks has drawn persistent critics. But the agency has recently retreated from some of its most controversial plans.
Officials this year rejected a management proposal that critics said would have expanded the use of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles on federal land. Instead, Mainella later signed a policy emphasizing that conservation is the parks' first responsibility.
But other issues remain. Bomar would take over the Park Service as the agency struggles with a yearslong backlog of maintenance and rehabilitation projects.
Bomar declined to elaborate on her personal views on a number of subjects, including snowmobiles and the maintenance backlog. She said she planned to "stay the course" and continue to look at the backlog.
"You have done a very good job of not answering the questions," Domenici teased during the hearing, adding that she appeared to understand the agency has serious issues to confront.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, pressed Bomar on recent ethics issues at the Interior Department.
The department's inspector general, Earl Devaney, lashed out last week at what he said was the department's failure to deal with ethical missteps and conflicts of interest.
"I will be a leader who demonstrates high ethical standards and promotes transparency in all our activities," Bomar said.