updated 9/10/2009 4:58:06 PM ET 2009-09-10T20:58:06

President Barack Obama Thursday chose a Colorado natural resources official to be the new agriculture undersecretary in charge of the U.S. Forest Service.

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Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, will be nominated for the federal post, which requires Senate confirmation, Obama said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack praised Sherman for his dedication to conserving and improving the environment in Colorado and beyond.

"It would be a privilege to have a public servant like Harris join the USDA leadership team to help carry out President Obama's vision for protecting the natural resources we need for a healthy and prosperous America," Vilsack said.

Sherman is a member of Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter's cabinet and has overseen state efforts to develop a plan for so-called roadless areas in remote national forests. National and regional conservation, hunting and angling groups have denounced Colorado's plan as weaker than a 2001 rule developed by former President Bill Clinton.

Critics say the Colorado plan is unnecessary after a federal appeals court decision reinstated most of the 2001 federal policy last month.

Sherman would be the second person picked for the undersecretary post. Homer Lee Wilkes, the Mississippi state conservationist, withdrew his nomination for the federal job in June. The White House said at the time it was for personal reasons.

Martin Hayden, vice president of the environmental group Earthjustice, called Sherman a dedicated public servant.

While his group opposes Ritter's plan "to undercut roadless protections in Colorado's national forests," Hayden said the group expects Sherman to carry out President Barack Obama's commitment to uphold and defend the 2001 Roadless Rule.

As a member of the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, Sherman was the driving force behind revising and dramatically improving the state's permitting rules to include consideration of wildlife, public health and the environment, Hayden said.

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