Columbia -- Former Gov. Mark Sanford reacted negatively Friday to news that Department of Natural Resources Director John Frampton was leaving the agency amid allegations he was forced out.

Sanford, a Republican who drew high marks for his conservation record, dismissed questions that surfaced about Frampton's heavy travel schedule. Sanford, who emphasized that while he's not quick to embrace the use of federal funds, said Frampton's trips secured federal and private money that was vital to land conservation in South Carolina.

"We saw real dividends from his travel," Sanford said. "He was magnificent at gathering private funds, which I was a big fan of. Salesmen don't make a lot of sales sitting in the office."

There has been talk that Sanford isn't happy with Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's conservation policies, but the former governor declined comment when asked about the issue Friday. Haley is clear that she wants environmental agencies to be more business friendly but has said she also wants to protect natural resources.

Sanford, a major supporter of land conservation, said he's sorry some board members wanted Frampton to leave. The former governor called Frampton a national leader on natural resources issues. Under Sanford and Frampton, the state secured more than 150,000 acres of land to protect from development. DNR's board appointed Frampton director at about the same time Sanford became governor in 2003.

"His departure is South Carolina's loss," Sanford said. "I would argue that he was the best DNR director in all 50 states. He did a superlative job of growing and enhancing the conservation footprint in the state."

The circumstances surrounding Frampton's decision to leave surfaced Thursday during an unusually tense DNR board meeting. At the meeting, two of three remaining board members that Sanford appointed accused board members appointed by Haley of holding secret discussions to oust Frampton.

Sanford-appointee Norman Pulliam said Frampton had gotten a good performance review in early October, but by the end of the month was being pushed out after private talks were held without Pulliam's participation. Pulliam said he was told by a fellow board member Frampton "was out-of-town too often," although board members did not elaborate on why some wanted the director to leave.