Manhattan Cooperation between the government and private sector will help improve the environment, U.S. Secretary of Interior Gale Norton said Monday.
"You only find the best solutions when you have people sit down and have give and take," Norton said at the Kansas State University's Landon Lecture Series.
She said government must work with those who use the land farmers, ranchers and loggers adding they are "ready to step up to the challenge."
The secretary cited the preservation of the tall grass prairie in the Flint Hills as "the poster child" of how government and private sector should work.
Norton said the tall grass prairie spanned millions of acres over several states before settlers arrived, noting less than 5 percent of it survives and most of that is in Kansas.
"What the tall grass prairie couldn't survive was man's plow," Norton said. "It's the most altered ecological system in North America."
The secretary said at the end of her tenure, she wants her agency to be one that made a difference.
"I'd like to see us more active by involvement in lots of grassroots projects around the country," Norton said. "I'd like to see us be the catalyst for bringing people together to solve problems."
She called her approach the "new environmentalism," adding, "If we challenge the American people, we will create a new generation of citizen conservationists."
Norton said the history of the environmental movement in the past 35 years lacked optimism, often focusing more on the problems than the solutions.
But she said out of that period came landmark environmental laws like the Clean Water Act. She said in 1972 one-third of the nation's rivers were safe for swimming and fishing and in 1980 half the rivers were safe.
She said government and the private sector also can work together to create more renewable resources and reduce pollution.
Before Norton spoke, a half-dozen KSU students were outside McCain Auditorium passing out leaflets critical of Norton's environmental stands and holding protest signs including: "Norton is destroying the land she was hired to protect."
The Bush administration has proposed drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska, a plan environmentalists have criticized.
During her talk, Norton said studies have shown that oil exploration in the Arctic would have little impact on the environment, and that studies also show "little or no effect on the caribou populations."