print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation
 Home > Government

Gale A. Norton
Secretary of the Interior, 2001-2006

Gale Norton

Gale Norton, a lifelong conservationist, public servant and advocate for bringing common sense solutions to environmental policy, was sworn in as the 48th Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior in January 2001 and served until March 2006. The first woman to head the 153-year-old department, Norton has made what she calls the Four C's the cornerstone of her tenure: Consultation, Communication, and Cooperation, all in the service of Conservation. At the heart of the Four C's is the belief that for conservation to be successful, the government must involve the people who live and work on the land.

To implement the Four C's approach, Norton has reached out to states, tribes, local communities, businesses, conservation organizations, and private citizens in a variety of ways, including:

    New Landowner Incentive and Private Stewardship Grant programs, providing cost-share grants to states and landowners for wildlife conservation;

    The Cooperative Conservation Initiative, a proposal for cost-share grants to empower states and local landowners to engage in conservation projects on public and private lands;

    Strong support of the bipartisan plan to restore the Florida Everglades;

    Reduction of long-standing maintenance backlogs on the National Park Service and the National Wildlife Refuge System, including a proposed record budget increase for the refuge system;

    Support for environmentally sensitive energy production on public lands, including renewable sources such as geothermal, wind, biomass and solar.

Norton has made building cooperation and consensus the focus of her nearly 25-year career. From 1991 to 1999, she served as Attorney General of Colorado. 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 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.

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.

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. Before becoming Interior Secretary, Norton was senior counsel at Brownstein, Hyatt & Farber, P.C. She and her husband, John Hughes, are avid hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. They reside near Washington, D.C.