Anyone wanna start a pool into whether Congressman Richard Pombo's suggestion that national park units be sold to help the federal government make ends meet will draw more outrage than Paul Hoffman's proposed retooling of the National Park Service's Management Policies?
Hoffman has a pretty good lead over Pombo in the outrage department, but the GOP congressman knows what it takes to grab headlines.
While Pombo has been silent, his spokesman from the House Resources Committee has been a veritable quote machine. In trying to convince reporters that Pombo isn't seriously thinking of putting national parks on the auction block, Brian Kennedy told the Washington Post that the list of parks for sale was drawn up for the Congressional Budget Office merely to estimate how much money could be generated under a hypothetical situation, not as a done deal.
"I'm sure the Pentagon has on the shelf plans to invade Canada or Mexico, but they don't have any plans to do so," Kennedy told the Post. "It's very safe to say the chairman has no interest in, and no intention of, introducing legislation that would sell national parks."
Of course not. Pombo simply wanted to raise the idea to leverage his argument that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be opened to oil leasing, a proposal the U.S. Senate already has rejected this year.
Sacramento Bee Skewers Pombo
Meanwhile, out on the left coast, the Sacramento Bee, which had fun ridiculing Hoffman's proposal, is now taking some swings at Pombo's suggestions.
"According to news accounts, Pombo's spokesman said the proposal is intended only to influence lawmakers to support the item allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," the Bee noted in an editorial this week. "That proposal by itself is bad enough. Americans use 7 billion barrels of oil per year. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the refuge has 4.3 to 11.8 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil (or a mean of 7.7 billion barrels). Economically recoverable oil is less.
"Why drill in one of the nation's most pristine wildernesses in order to get a year's or less supply of oil, distracting us from where we need to go with energy policy?"
Pombo, the Bee notes, "would drill and sell our assets to gain one-time money in order to fix a budget hole. And when the deficits continue next year and the year after? How many parks and how much public land does Pombo intend to despoil or sell?...Pombo has shown that he's willing to sacrifice our public lands rather than be a steward of them. No Republican leader has risen to denounce the idea, so it seems safe to assume that he is not the only member of his party who finds this appalling notion acceptable."
What the Bee didn't point out is that no member of the Democratic Party's leadership has denounced it, either. And that's as great a shame.
Hoffman vs. Pombo, Head to Head
For a nice head-to-head look at the evolving Hoffman and Pombo chronicles, check out Jim Motavalli's commentary in E magazine. Motavalli, the magazine's editor, does a great job of wrapping these two stories together. He even got the Republicans for Environmental Protection to weigh in on Pombo's proposal.
"Pombo's extremism, if turned into law, would turn our treasured national park system into a tawdry carnival of advertising and fast-buck commercialism, squandering a priceless inheritance," Jim DiPeso told Motavalli.
These are scary times for lovers of public lands. Not only is Hoffman trying to open up parks to more snowmobiles and ATVs and overflights while Pombo wants to sell off some park units, Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado is calling for the Interior Department to sell 15 percent of its lands to help fund the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
As the Sierra Club's Carl Pope told Motavalli, "These public lands are icons of our natural and cultural beauty. They belong to us all and it's not up to Congressmen Pombo or Tancredo to offer them to the highest bidder."