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"People either really, really liked him or didn't like himthey loved him or hated him. There was no middle ground with Kerry Clough."



appropriate that the deputy regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency would have an epiphany on his 40th birthday while fishing in a wilderness area on Bear Mountain.

"It just dawned on me that I had not been doing enough of these kinds of things," Kerry Clough said from his home last week in Evergreen Meadows. "It was a mundane realization that I needed to spend more time in nature and not at the office, that I've got to plan for the future so I could retire as quickly as I could."

His ideal retirement target was at age 58, but ultimately he retired in January at age 60 after spending two more years on an important causehelping to spearhead the formation of a national senior policy council to deal with "Indian country" environmental issues. Based in Washington, D.C., the 22-member council is made up primarily of senior EPA staff with extensive experience.

By the time Clough retiredor "graduated," as he prefers to call ithe had served the agency for 37 years. His duties as the head honcho of Region 8 included overseeing a staff of 770, managing a budget of $320 million, and serving six states and 27 Indian tribes. And he had received three high-ranking meritorious presidential awards for his work, nominated by state and federal officials and private-sector reviewers.

But one of the most memorable experiences Clough had before he left the agency was attending a quarterly meeting in Utah with environmental tribal directors of 27 Native American tribes.

"They wanted to know my parting observations, and several said nice things about me," Clough recalls. "It wasn't an award in the sense of a piece of paper; it was an honorary speech thanking me for my career working with them."

Sadie Hoskie, director of the EPA water program, said Clough has been honored on several occasions by tribes for the work he has done.

"He was such a visionary," Hoskie said. "He was a clear talker; he spoke a language that people could understand that didn't contain bureaucratic language or legalese. He wasn't scared away by some of the huge problems on reservations that generally overwhelm people who are not familiar with that way of life."

Despite such accolades, however, Hoskie knew Clough had his own particular style.

"People either really, really liked him or didn't like himthey loved him or hated him. There was no middle ground with Kerry Clough," Hoskie said. "He was such a strategist: If you were a barrier, you didn't like him; if you wanted to help remove barriers, you were with him."

Clough's vision the last two years on the senior council was to fill regulatory gaps and provide equal environmental protections on reservationsto improve the quality of drinking water and air quality for reservations that have gas and oil facilitiesamong other goals. But he has actively worked on environmental issues involving Native American lands since 1993.

Clough wrote the first regional environmental policy on how to work with tribes for facilities inspections, enforcement issues and tribal government. And, over the years, he and a team of EPA staff have helped find funds to improve the environments of Native American lands and have worked with tribal governments in achieving those goals.

One low point for Clough and Hoskie was losing a case in federal court involving a dispute between a county and a tribe over where to locate a sanitary landfill to serve three counties. The tribe rejected the plan to have the site on its land, but a judge found cause to remove the tribal boundaries to make way for the project.

"We were so disappointed," Hoskie remembers. "We lost the case for EPA, but the tribe lost their homeland."

The ruling reduced tribal holdings from 90,000 acres to 40,000a "horribly emotional" experience for all involved.

"It was something (Kerry) just took so personally," Hoskie said.

Based on family genealogies, Clough could have a bit of Indian blood in his lineage dating back a few centuries, though it's unidentifiable, he said. But that was not the driving force behind the work he did.

"My commitment to Indian issues comes squarely from the lawfederal agencies have a mission to carry that out equally," Clough said. "But maybe a little of my pushing and striving come from the romantic side that I have a little Indian in me."

Clough joined the EPA nine months after it was created in December 1970 by executive order of President Richard Nixon.

"I was just finishing graduate school, and I applied to the federal management intern program," Clough said. "I had my eye on the new EPA agency. I found it interesting. About 200 people interviewed, and nine were selected."

After that he rose through the ranks fairly quickly, he said. By 33 he had a title that, in ranking, was similar to a general in the military. The agency now has about 17,000 employees nationwide.

Clough describes it as a "marvelous" organization with low attrition staffed with public-service-oriented people who are often as driven by their mission as those at NASA.

Though the EPA has had its "ups and downs" over the years, he believes the agency has by and large been able to do its job.

Two years before he joined the agency, a polluted river caught fire in Ohio from the spark of a train passing overhead. Today, it's rare for rivers to contain unregulated chemicals or raw sewage that destroy animal life. In fact, Clough has seen dead streams come to life again, with fish that are healthy enough to eat, thanks to the efforts of the EPA.

And communities with acute air pollution have seen the problem disappear, which has improved the health of those who live in those areas, he said.

In fact, the current administration has had some big successes, he said, by tightening requirements on emission controls for diesel trucks in urban areasthough the White House has only finally begun to acknowledge and address the issues of climate change.

"There is a clear consensus among real scientists that there is a problem," he said. "There are kind of phony scientists aligned with certain industry that say there is no problem, but usually, if you look at the credentials, they are not in a field that would have the training to come to those conclusions."

How are we as a nation doing on climate change?

"We are not acting fast enough," Clough said.

Clough describes himself as an "optimistic pragmatist and iconoclast." His favorite saying, nabbed from a Jimmy Buffett song, is: "When you start to take this job seriously, you're in trouble."

He grew up in Michigan, the son of an avid outdoorsman who taught him to fish at the age of 5. He moved from Washington to Evergreen with his wife, Nancy, in 1980. The couple have a daughter, also named Nancy, who is a research cell biologist at the University of Colorado Medical School.

Steve Tuber, an EPA assistant regional administrator who has known Clough for 20 years, describes him as "one of the most inspiring people anyone could work for," a leader who "pushed all of us to do our best and think things all the way through."

"There are so many words that would fit (him)," Tuber said. "Both fun and serioushe was incredibly creative."

In reality, Clough knows the best two words to describe himself: Buzzard Butt.

He earned the title in 1995 during a naming ceremony by a Native American tribal leader from the Flathead Reservation in Montana.

"He knew I had been doing a lot of work with the Environmental Protection Agency," Clough said, remembering the experience. "He asked me, 'Do you have an Indian name?' And I said, 'No, I don't.' "

Officially "empowered" to assign one, the tribal leader probed Clough with a few specific questions, including his favorite animal.

"I said, 'The buzzard.' He said, 'Are you serious?' "

The answer underscored Clough's sense of humor and revealed his contemplative side. When the chief affectionately added "butt" to the title, the name stuck.

"That is my favorite animal; that's the serious answer," Clough said. "I devoted 37 years of my life cleaning up other people's messes."















































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