Monday, January 09, 2006

Paul Hoffman changing National Parks

Newwest
National Park Service is Being Skinned from the Inside-Out
By Todd Wilkinson, 12-01-05

Editors' Note: The re-writing of boilerplate protective language for the National Park Service by political appointee and Assistant U.S. Interior Department Secretary Paul Hoffman should cause broader public analysis of the climate of fear that exists inside America's most beloved government agency. This is the first of several dispatches from Todd Wilkinson who was written about the National Park Service for the last 20 years. Click here for the entire series

You have to wonder, at least I do, what goes through the minds of high-level civil servants and business executives when they know they’ve been busted.

What are they thinking when they appear in a public forum, getting grilled by members of Congress (or in a court of law), and then deliver lame answers they know full and well are less than honest.?

Such as:
“I have no recollection of what you are talking about.”
“It was an innocent exercise in creative brainstorming.”
“You gotta trust me on this. Really, everything is legit.”
“I was only following orders.”

When Steve Martin, the former Grand Teton National Park Superintendent who now serves as the National Park Service’s Deputy Director in Washington, D.C, appeared recently before a panel of U.S. senators, he struggled mightily to pass the red-face test. But I sympathize with the compromised position he was placed in.

Coming under intense bi-partisan scrutiny lead by U.S. Sens. Craig Thomas, a Wyoming Republican, and Ken Salazar, a Colorado Democrat, he claimed that some of the controversial changes written in to the National Park Service’s operating manual may have been “inadvertent.”

As in, they happened by accident. As in, they just slipped by or were typos. As in, even though the changes would radically alter the primary mission of America’s most beloved government agency, which is charged with protecting our crown jewel wildlands, they were added by some strange occurrence of alchemy.

The bald-faced truth is that nothing about the overhaul of the Park Service’s operating manual was done without radical deliberateness executed by former Cody Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paul Hoffman.

Mr. Hoffman knows better than to take the public for a bunch of gullible fools.

As an assistant Secretary of the Interior, a politically appointed position, he got his job NOT because he holds any professional expertise in stewarding public lands but simply because he was a former staffer decades ago for Vice President Dick Cheney.

Mr. Hoffman couldn’t wait to tinker with the Park Service’s boilerplate language that puts preservation ahead of resource exploitation. None of this is speculation.

His dislike of former Yellowstone Superintendent Mike Finley was well known. His attempts to undermine Finley by threatening him with political retaliation for advancing conservation in Yellowstone are well documented. His frustration that Yellowstone and other parks are guarded by a shield of armor, forged by the words laden in the 1916 Park Service Organic Act, is not a secret.

In addition to Hoffman’s anti-environmental agenda now being exposed (though Park Service workers are afraid to discuss it for fear he will punish them), another problem, lesser known to the public, is the intense pressure coming to bear upon career civil servants like Steve Martin.

“I wouldn’t characterize it as a climate of fear as much as an atmosphere of intense intimidation,” says one active Park Service veteran who notes that Hoffman has made it clear “heads will roll” if career rangers challenge his agenda. One has to wonder—am I the only one who does—that when the President of the United States makes a speech justifying our military intervention in Iraq, telling bereaved family members who have lost soldiers that they gave their lives fighting for freedom and Democracy—that before we export liberty perhaps we have to get it right here first.

If fear, harassment and intimidation are not tolerated in the private sector, why does it appear to exist and be condoned in the U.S. government? The great thing about living in a Democracy is that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. Mr. Hoffman deserves to have the benefit of the doubt accorded him because, after all, our soldiers are in Iraq fighting to protect American-style freedom which I assume includes our system of justice. But I have spoken with many civil servants who work for a variety of federal agencies (Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service) and they are afraid of what will happen if they don't follow the script being handed to them.

Denis Galvin, who spent three decades defending national parks as a career civil servant under Republican and Democrat administrations, says there’s always politics at work with political appointees but Hoffman’s meddling is unprecedented.

Good people, including Galvin who dedicated their careers to the Park Service and received the highest honors of civil service, are leaving in droves because Hoffman and others in the Bush Administration are forcing them to compromise their principles of what is right and wrong, he says.

“The most obvious quantifiable phenomenon is the number of people who have left the agency,” Galvin says. “They got fed up. That’s a huge loss. The intimidation is more intense today than it ever was before.”

Recently, Park Service Director Fran Mainella circulated a memo to the rank and file demanding that all agency employees, civil service grade GS-13 and higher, devote themselves to carrying out the political agenda of the Bush Administration.

Galvin says it is tantamount to “a loyalty oath”. The performance of employees is judged on how well they implement policy changes being handed down down to them by political appointees like Mr. Hoffman.

In the past, it was customary for an assistant Interior Secretary to approve the appointments of Park Service officials who were part of the “senior executive service” meaning those above GS-15. Hoffman, however, wants to be able to confirm all Park Service posts GS-13 and above which applies to hundreds of employees.

Galvin says it is an insidious attempt to transform the professional culture of the agency by weeding out employees who are committed to the Park Service’s conservation mission that currently takes precedent over the desires of the industrial recreation industry. For example, a park visitor’s desire to experience peace or quietly watch wildlife in a national park is given higher priority over another’s wishes to drive noisy, intrusive, and polluting snowmobiles, jet skis, and ATVs in national parks.

Hoffman would like to tip the balance in the other direction by rewriting the regs. It’s more than profoundly ironic that Mr. Hoffman and others were at the lead of the pack in accusing the Clinton Administration of crafting rules in dark rooms in Washington without soliciting public and professional review. At least with the Clinton Adminstration, agency employees who devoted their professional lives to being public stewards of our landscapes, wildlife, and resources such as clean air and water didn’t flee their agencies because they were afraid to talk.

Denis Galvin knows the difference between then and now. Things were never like this under the administration of the current President’s father, George Herbert Walker Bush.

Deny and I have had several conversations over the years in the halls at the Interior Building in Washington and on the phone. He’s a civil servant I greatly admire. He’s the kind of guy who should’ve been a Park Service Director or been plucked to hold the position that was given to Hoffman.

Updating the Park Service operating manual isn't an uncommon event. Galvin says he was involved in helping to assist with two previous updates that were carried out transparently with agencywide participation and openness. Hoffman’s rewrite, however, was done surreptitiously, he says, noting that he’s studied the changes line by line and there’s nothing “inadvertent” about them.

The unfortunate thing is that people like Steve Martin are being set up as fall guys. That’s not fair and frankly it’s a very Soviet approach to how government, freedom and Democracy are supposed to be run. Martin’s taking the heat for decisions he didn’t make.


Comments
By Robert Hoskins, 12-01-05
We haven't seen such a direct attack on the public trust and public lands since the days before the administration of Theodore Roosevelt a century ago. It's people like Todd Wilkinson who are telling it as it is. Pay attention, folks!

By John Baden, 12-01-05
Good piece by Todd!



In the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, November 16, 2005

National Parks’ Future Lies in Trusts
by John A. Baden, Ph.D.

Creating the national parks was one of America’s best ideas, but inevitable political pressures jeopardize their mission. The parks’ strongest supporters warn of dangers from political management.

Consider a recent New York Times editorial. After noting Americans’ overwhelming support for national parks, the Times opines: “Yet in the past two months we have seen two proposed revisions [of management policy]. The first, written by Paul Hoffman, a deputy assistant secretary in the Interior Department, was a genuinely scandalous rewriting that would have destroyed the national park system.”

The second draft was only somewhat better. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, “the proposed policies re-define the over-arching duty of the park service, eliminating references to longstanding legal mandates that clearly emphasize preservation of resources.... The replacement statement sets a dangerous precedent that could put enjoyment of resources, including motorized abuse, ahead of conservation.” They warn it would foster increased air and noise pollution due to more jet skis and snowmobiles, as well as expanded livestock grazing: both “high-impact” uses.

As I’ve argued for decades, these treasures deserve better. In today’s rancorous cultural environment, is it na├»ve folly to trust our parks’ fate to politicians? Political pressures move the Progressive Era’s ideal of management by neutral, scientific experts ever further from reality.

Yellowstone Park was established in 1872. Due to failure to protect its resources, management was turned over to the U.S. Army in 1886, where it remained for some 30 years. The military left the Park in 1918, two years after the National Park Service was established.

When avarice first threatened the Park’s values, the cavalry came to the rescue. At that time, naked private interests tried to stake claims on public resources. Now, their descendents utilize the political process to achieve similar goals. Is this an aberration or the predictable consequences of our institutional arrangements? I believe it’s the latter and that reform is long overdue. Here’s why.

First, the parks will always offer values that attract potential exploiters, folks with little interest in promoting the public interest. Poaching, a huge problem in the 1870s, remains troublesome. And poaching is trivial compared to the ecological damage caused by ORVs. There are multiple opportunities for exploitation, and their value is growing; there have always been huge political incentives to pander.

Second, an increasing proportion of visitors will be from foreign countries, especially China and India. As admissions provide more of the park system’s funding, there will be strong incentives to cater to visitors’ demands. And few of them will draw a sharp philosophical distinction between Disneyland and Yellowstone. The implications are chilling to those who care about the mission of our national parks.

Third, the federal government is facing huge and growing deficits. The park system now carries a maintenance backlog (estimated at roughly $5 billion, twice the entire annual Park Service budget), and it will be ever more difficult to allocate funds to relieve it. Concurrently, there will be seductive opportunities to use the national parks as cash cows. It’s easy to imagine how a budgetary tradeoff between controlling noxious invasive species or vaccinating children might play out.

A public treasure does not inherently require governmental management. Public, nongovernmental trusts present sensible alternatives to federal management. Both Mount Vernon and Monticello are clearly “public” and both are run by trusts rather than government agencies.

Endowment boards, like those running museums, hospitals, and private schools, would operate under a legal charter to steward individual parks. After receiving a one-time Congressional endowment, each park’s individual trust would be “on its own.” The board, established by local environmental groups, business leaders, and citizens, would promote ecologically sensitive economic activities as part of their trustee responsibility.

Creative mechanisms such as a “Friends of Old Faithful” program could entice membership, dues, and democratic feedback from park lovers everywhere. Park trusts would free our parks from their precarious dependency on national politics, encourage long-term planning, and reintroduce accountability in management.

Perhaps Hoffman’s recent assault is an aberration we can ignore. More likely, the dangers to our parks will become more obvious as the threat of commercialization looms larger. Should this occur, those who care most deeply will look for alternatives to political management. Think trusts.

John A. Baden, Ph.D., is Chairman of FREE and Gallatin Writers.

By Brodie Farquhar, 12-01-05
Like Todd, I've been covering Hoffman and the growing commercialization pressures on public lands.
Right after the Hoffman rewrite controversy started, Paul Hoffman spoke before a very appreciative audience: the American Recreation Coaltion--a wide spectrum of businesses that sell outdoor experiences, goods and services, ranging from resorts, ski areas and marinas, to user groups and manufacturers of boats, ATVs, luxury coaches, etc.

Dozens of reporters (myself included) were hounding Interior for an interview with Hoffman. As far as I can tell, no reporter spoke to Hoffman until the Park Service rolled out their toned down version that Todd addressed above.
Scott Silver of Wild Wilderness is probably THE best source about commercialization of public lands, which Scott traces back to a Cato Institute paper about 20 years ago. Scott's admirable detective work traces the idea of privatizing public lands from Cato to PERC to Reason Magazine and thence to some of Bush's top appointees at Interior: Norton and Watson.

The game plan seems to borrow a page from Grover Norquist (starve the federal government until you can drown it in a bathtub): Cut budgets and professional staff (and thereby morale), until recreation fees, volunteers and concessionaires look like a reasonable alternative to severe options like shutting down campgrounds, parks, etc.

In the midst of staggering federal deficits, the option of fully-funding our land and wildlife agencies is quickly dismissed. Extreme ideas like selling public lands to draw down the deficit start sounding rational.
Commercialization of public lands is not the revolution that James Watt advocated (and why he got slapped down). This is an evolutionary, stealth approach that may take decades to unfold.

By Bill Wade, Chair, Coalition of NPS Retirees, 12-02-05
Todd's article is right on target. The real issue here is that the NPS now has a Director who is more concerned about satisfying her political leaders than she is about the values and purposes of the National Park System. With regard to the proposed revisions to the NPS Management Policies, she is now intent on doing everything possible to convince the public (and the employees of the NPS) that this version was "written with the participation of nearly [Note that this qualifier has recently crept into the statement, earlier she was stating that it was "over"] 100 professional National Park Service employees" - a claim the NPS now admits it can't back up. Whether this is intentional misrepresentation or just sloppy public information we don't know. We do know that Mainella has been conspicuously absent from the recent "listening" meetings conducted with various interest groups - leaving that task to Steve Martin and other career employees. Presumably this is to bolster the claim that the management policies being reviewed are the "career professional version," even though they, and we, know it isn't.

By Texas reader, 12-02-05
Thanks Todd for calling what it is: "anti-evironment".

By hal herring, 12-05-05
Todd,
I just got back from Yellowstone, so am late in seeing your excellent and timely stories here. I am fascinated that mainstream journalism is not publishing stories like this everyday-- that perhaps the saturation of extremist views like Hoffman's --and the overwhelming majority of appointed decision-makers on public lands and energy issues that have no credentials other than an extremist anti-enviro or anti-conservation platform (or simply a profit for campaign contributors at any cost) is not the fodder of every publication in America right now. That's a convoluted sentence, yes.
I am not nostalgic for the simpler days of James Watt, but I don't think we ever grasped (then) that Watt was merely the Reagan-enabled visionary, whose visions would come to fruit when business and population pressures (now) created the environment to make them reality under an administration who draws all of its energy from extremist rhetoric-- from religious to right wing business....I would posit that Ms. Norton is no more or less extreme in her views than was her mentor Mr. Watt, but she inhabits a time when such views can more easily be realized. I am, though, nostalgic for the time when I wrote the story, pasted below, for Field and Stream..I don't remember the date of pub. but it was sometime on 2000. A figure like Richard Pombo has been slouching towards Bethlehem, waiting to be born, for a long long time.

Thanks for your work and attention, Todd. Americans, especially westerners, are confronting
what Joseph Conrad,in Heart of Darkness, called "the flabby devils" -- destructive forces that are hard to pin down or fight against, because they involve so many aspects of human nature common to us all--
where need becomes greed, ie. the need for natural gas which has to come out of the Jonah Field, to heat our homes, versus our desire to preserve ecosystems and wildlife, or the need to "recreate " in the National Parks versus the role of the Parks to serve as redoubts of the last wild systems on earth.... so many nuances, so many places for those of us who do not value the natural world or creation at all, to put on the mask of the reasonable advocate for "balance"
ie. unleashing the forces of private business and capitalism on the public lands and parks. Whew.
Hal Herring
Post: #1 Posted: Thu Jul 08, 2004 9:42 pm
From Field and Stream magazine http://fieldandstream.com/sportsmansissues/index.html No Place Whatsoever by Hal Herring Some say the concept of national public lands is obsolete. Where would that leave sportsman? There are about 630 million acres of federal public land in the United States, managed by the military, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the National Park Service. About 222 million of those acres are in Alaska, but that still leaves a big chunk in the lower 48 states. But the public lands have never been under as much scrutiny, and the source of so much conflict, as they are today. Environmentalists fight the loggers and the miners and the drillers. Hikers hate ATV riders; snowmobilers leave backcountry skiers cussing in clouds of purple exhaust. Ranchers who lease grazing rights run afoul of hunters who say that the forage eaten by cattle could support vast herds of game. Communities surrounded by public lands that produce almost no revenue watch their children leave home for work in the cities. Western politicians yell "federal government!" from their soapboxes, and crowds roar with anger. As when toys are simply taken away from children who won't stop fighting over them, there are plans afoot to solve the conflict over the public lands by simply getting rid of them. Ironically, some of the same representatives that sportsmen have counted on to preserve the right to bear arms and to guarantee our hunting privileges have said that the whole concept of public lands should be questioned. What would this mean for sportsmen? Without public land, hunting and a lot of fishing would be reserved for those who can pay the highest price. Wildlife would be privatized along with the land, owned by whichever landowner could afford to fence it in. There would be vast private wildland preserves bordering virtual moonscapes where all the timber and minerals have been taken away by some international consortium. It could mean a busy economy of land trades and housing developments and pay-to-play recreation. It would mean that there would be no place whatsoever for us to go. The Push to Privatize Selling off the public lands to the highest bidder is not a new idea. Bernard DeVoto, the renowned historian and editor of the journals of Lewis and Clark, spent years writing about the efforts of the timber and grazing interests to transfer federal lands to state ownership -- and then into private hands, since no single state has the budget to manage or maintain them. In his anthology The Easy Chair, published in 1955, DeVoto wrote, "The ultimate objective is to liquidate all public ownership of grazing and forest land in the United States├Ąthe plan is to get rid of public lands altogether, turning them over to the states, which can be coerced as the federal government cannot be, and eventually to private ownership." GET INVOLVED Find out about local land-ownership issues in your state by contacting your state wildlife management agency, or get involved by joining the following conservation organizations: The Izaak Walton League of America was founded in 1922 as a national organization of hunters, anglers, and other conservation-minded outdoor enthusiasts who work through volunteer, community-based action and education programs to ensure the sustainable use of America's natural resources. 800-453-5463; http://www.iwla.org The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance comprises individual sportsmen and women and 500 national, regional, and local conservation groups concerned about the future of wildlife and outdoor activities on the 192 million acres of national forests and grasslands. 877-770-8722; http://www.trca.org The National Wildlife Federation, established in 1936, is the largest member-supported wildlife conservation organization, offering a wide array of education and advocacy programs. The NWF works to ensure that any transfer of government lands to private owners is made for the sole benefit of the wildlife and ecosystem. 800-611-1599; http://www.nwf.org The landgrabbers, as DeVoto called them, have never gone away. In 1995, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) cosponsored a bill introduced by Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) that would transfer all lands managed by the BLM to the states. Under the plan, the state of Montana would gain control of 8 million acres, including most of the Missouri Breaks, the Rocky Mountain Front, and the C.M. Russell Wildlife Refuge -- some of the most valuable public hunting grounds in the nation. Idaho would gain control of 11 million acres; Wyoming, 17 million. What would happen to all that land? "If the state gets the lands, they will go on the sales block," Montana state Sen. Al Bishop (R-Yellowstone) told a reporter for Time magazine in October 1995. The Montana Wilderness Association campaigned against the bill, running radio and newspaper ads to let the public know what was being proposed. Louise Bruce, then the president of the association, said, "The legislation doesn't stand a chance in the light of day. If the public knows that their land is being threatened, they will be outraged. It's our job to keep letting them know. We will keep pounding on this issue until our lands are safe." The bill failed, in large part because of the rallying of public opinion against it. But Burns, now serving his third term in the Senate, has never changed his stance. "The federal government now controls nearly one-third of the land in the United States," Burns said in an address to Congress last summer. "That is wrong, and was never intended to be as envisioned by the Founders of our nation nor the framers of our Constitution." Montana state Rep. Bob Davies (R-Gallatin) is now pushing for privatization. Davies believes that the federal government does not have the power to own any land inside the states, except for military uses. He has introduced a bill to bring suit against the U.S. government to force the return of 27 million acres of federal land to Montana. "We're not advocating that there be no public lands," says Davies. "We just say they have to turn the lands over to the states. We can manage them much better." Trouble in Nevada The sale of public lands is already established in Nevada, where the federal government owns 87 percent of the land. The antifederal fire has always burned hottest there. In the 1980s, county commissioners in Elko County, Nevada, sparked what came to be called the sagebrush rebellion, by laying claim to all federal lands within the county's boundaries. That term is now commonly used for any opposition to federal regulations and control of public lands in the West, but northern Nevada remains the epicenter of discontent. In July 1994, Elko County Commissioner Dick Carver made national news when he rammed his bulldozer through a gate that closed a road in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The same forest was the site of the so-called Shovel Brigade protest last July 4, when citizens gathered to reopen a Forest Service road that had collapsed into the tiny Jarbidge River. The road had been closed by Forest Service officials to protect the southernmost population of bull trout known to exist in the nation. Most of the citizens who participated in those acts were not clamoring for the public lands to be sold to private interests -- they were demanding that local communities be given a stronger voice in managing them. "Most everybody knows that Nevada will never have the budget to manage all that land -- one big range or forest fire would bankrupt us," acknowledges Elsie Dupree of the Nevada Wildlife Federation. "If the state got those lands, there would be a huge sale, and people from all over the world would be here, buying it up for dude ranches or whatever." In Las Vegas, the fastest-growing city in the country, public lands are being sold outright as the city expands into the surrounding desert. "We have a law passed in 1998 that says we can sell any land needed for urban development," explains Bob Stewart, a real estate specialist with the BLM. "Every sale goes through a series of reviews, and sometimes, with rural lands, the value of the land does not pay for the review process. New legislation addresses that problem, allowing us to pay for the reviews with money from more valuable lands and get ready for the next sale." The Ultimate (Final) Solution? In the opinion of some economists, it is time to abandon the concept of public lands altogether and let the market decide where people can hunt, fish, ride their ATVs, or seek the solitude of the forests. "We could auction off all the public lands over the next 20 to 40 years," says Terry Anderson, the executive director of the Political Economy Research Center (PERC), in Bozeman, Montana. If PERC sounds familiar, it's because Gale Norton, Anderson's old friend and former research fellow at the center, is now the secretary of the Department of the Interior, which manages the 630 million acres of public land. "Right now we have federal land managers who have no clear incentives to produce anything," Anderson says. "They feed at the public trough, and they face enormous pressures from special-interest groups -- it doesn't matter if those groups are loggers, or environmentalists, or rock climbers, whoever. There are no clear goals. We do not have the multiple use for which the lands are mandated." In 1999, Anderson coauthored a study titled "How and Why to Privatize Federal Lands," outlining the benefits of divestiture, the term he uses to describe the selling off of what he calls the federal estate. Anderson views the current deadlock over the management of the public lands as yet another demonstration of the failure of socialism. He is a free-market economist first, but he is also a lifelong hunter who believes that converting the public lands to private ownership could lead to better management for wildlife and hunting, as well as for natural resources like timber, oil, minerals, or simply clean water. "Incentives matter," he insists. "If I pay a landowner top dollar to hunt elk on his property, that landowner is going make sure that he's got the best elk habitat possible. If the market demands clean water, he's not going to clear-cut his mountainsides and jeopardize that resource. You can't make those kinds of decisions on the public lands, because there are so many conflicting demands placed on them." What would our country look like if the public lands were sold off to the private sector? "We would see true multiple use of the lands, for one thing," Anderson asserts. "I think you'd see more development, both for natural resources like oil, and for housing and condos. But it would be done with greater sensibility, to keep from degrading the resource. If you own it, you don't want to diminish its value. "People always ask me whether I think places like Yellowstone would be protected, and I think they would be. But in a free market, there's no guarantee. Someone might decide to tap the geysers for energy or build condos at Yellowstone Lake. There are risks involved, but there are also risks in letting the government continue to mismanage these lands." Anderson's office is decorated with photos and trophies of hunts, both in the American West and in Africa, where he recently took a Cape buffalo with a bow. All his hunting, on both continents, is done on private land. "I'm not so satisfied with these pristine corners of the world that are run by government. They are crowded, the parking lots at the trailheads are packed with cars, the hunting is bad. I'd much rather pay a fee to access private, controlled spaces, with better hunting, and better habitat." Some see this way of thinking as a progression to European-style hunting."What Mr. Anderson is talking about with divestiture is turning our national heritage back to the king," rebuts Thomas Power, chairman of the economics department at the University of Montana and a well-known writer and lecturer on natural-resource issues around the West. "If you sell off the commons -- in our case, the public lands -- you are not going to have very much hunting, certainly not for anyone but the wealthy." The Dilemma of the Commons The politics of the last eight years have been confusing for many American sportsmen. Repeated attacks on the Second Amendment drove a lot of outdoorsmen deep into the Republican ranks. Somehow, that movement was perceived by many Republican politicians as a sign that hunters and fishermen were no longer the premier conservationists that they had always been, and that a mandate had been given to them to push issues like the privatization of federal lands, or at least return to a more industrial concept of those lands, even though both of those issues run counter to the interests of most sportsmen. This may also be a sign that as sportsmen's numbers drop, politicians simply pay less attention to their concerns. "The antigovernment, antienvironmental folks have greatly exaggerated the coincidence of interests between themselves and outdoor recreationists," Power says. Under the Bush administration, sportsmen are going to have to shout a little louder to be heard over the voices of industry looking to make up for lost time on the public lands, and they are going to have to convince their elected representatives that just because they are staunch defenders of gun and property rights, they will not tolerate assaults on other freedoms: to wander the public lands, to hunt and fish, and to enjoy the American outdoors and its wildlife. Will the public lands be around for our grandchildren? Only those who now own them can decide.

By Greg, 12-05-05
I'm with Hal: great piece Todd -- and where's the media outrage???

By R Kimpel, 12-07-05
I'm sorry to see this happen to an agency I worked for (NPS,31 yrs)... I hoped that my grandchildren and their offspring can enjoy the parks and public lands as much as we have. Seems Bush/Cheney can be decisive when it comes to fighting for our precious oil supply but are poor judges of who to appoint to the various cabinet posts.

By Herman Smith, 12-12-05
Thanks for the great article, looking forward to the rest of the series.

Remember that Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett was the ED of the Reason Foundation. Check out their papers and articles--Privitization is their agenda. Paul Hoffman is doing exactly what he is authorized to do by Scarlett, Norton, and the White House.

Back after the first election, John Turner was up for a post in DOI. He would have been a great choice for Deputy Secretary or Secretary. Being friends with Cheney you would think he would have been a shoe in, but even those ties could not stop the far right property rights movement--the Chuck Cushman's of the world- of tarring him as an extreme environmentalist. What nonsense. So these are the folks running things now. The media is doing a roten job of exposing their true agenda.

By Ralph Cramer, 12-30-05
Ah, The sky is falling, the sky is falling.

Get over it people, change is due, and always painful for those stuck in the past.

It would be nice to see some objective, reasoned analysis on the proposed changes in USPS management, rather than the hysterical polemic that is epidemic in the articles and comments found here.

By Todd Wilkinson, 12-30-05
Dear "Ralph Cramer",
Please tell us more about yourself. Here's an invitation, too, to lay out an objective, reasoned analysis. Please hold forth.

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