Within a handful of months we've seen somewhat of a sea change in the hierarchy at the Interior Department and the National Park Service.
Out as Interior secretary is Gale Norton, who had a bent for turning Western public lands into a checkerboard of drilling pads, in is Dirk Kempthorne, who outwardly hasn't seemed to ruffle any environmentalist's feathers ... yet.
Out as NPS director is Fran Mainella, who seemed more concerned with visiting as many parks as she could than with actually being a parks advocate, in is Mary Bomar, who seemed like a vanilla choice until she stated her support for snowmobiles in Yellowstone. After all, if Yellowstone can be given over to snowmobiles, no park is safe from being flipped for the almighty dollar.
Those are the high-profile moves. Not so headline-grabbing, but important nonetheless, are the departures of Assistant Interior Secretary Craig Manson, the soon-to-be-gone Deputy Park Service Director Don Murphy, and the dispatching of Paul Hoffman, another assistant deputy Interior secretary, to Interior's Policy, Management and Budget section, where he now safely rides herd over the Government Performance and Results Act.
Now what we need is some substantial change in Congress. The first person I'd like to see sent packing is Representative Richard Pombo, a faux cowboy who seems determined to undermine the environment any which way he can.
With the mid-term elections just a small handful of weeks away, Mr. Pombo, who chairs the House Resources Committee, seems to be in a surprisingly tough race to win his eighth term in California's 11th Congressional District. Seems like Democrat Jerry McNerney, although far from able to match Mr. Pombo's war-chest, is doing an incredible job in convincing the voters that his Republican foe is a miserable choice to represent them.
Heck, he's a miserable choice to represent anyone who likes clean air, clean water, clean land and healthy wildlife.
After all, Mr. Pombo won't rest until oil companies set up their drilling pads on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), even though studies (here's another) have indicated that opening the refuge to drilling would barely dent America's oil imports and likely would provide little more than six months' worth of oil. What we really need in Washington are politicians (although I'd prefer statesmen and women) who realize we need to wean ourselves from our over-dependence on fossil fuels and focus on alternative energy sources.
Anyway, Mr. Pombo also proposed, supposedly as a joke, to sell off 15 NPS units to generate revenues he claimed the United States would lose if ANWR weren't opened to drilling.
Beyond those two issues, the Republican also wants to gut the Endangered Species Act and would be thrilled to see more energy drilling on the United States' outer continental shelf.
More specific to national parks, it was Mr. Pombo who handpicked Representative Stevan Pearce of New Mexico to oversee the House subcommittee on parks. In that position Mr. Pearce has shown his discomfort with the National Park Service Organic Act, the NPS's Management Policies, and a few other choice issues that I'll highlight in another post.
Oh yes, Mr. Pombo also purports to be a big snowmobiler, and his advocacy of snowmobiles in Yellowstone pales to none other, as evidenced by this site that's been cobbled onto the main House Resources Committee website. Although dubbed "Snowmobile Central" and boasting "the most up-to-date information on snowmobiling in America's national parks," somehow Mr. Pombo neglected to list any of the latest studies into how snowmobiles affect Yellowstone, or the reports about how snowmobiles are a serious threat to park employees' hearing, and possibly to the hearing of park visitors.
Somehow, in spite of all these examples, Mr. Pombo managed to vote on the side of the National Parks Conservation Association 17 percent of the time during the 2003 and 2004 congressional sessions. Of course, there were only six votes that the NPCA deemed important, and Mr. Pombo got one right. That vote was in favor of an amendment that prohibited the outsourcing of two NPS archaeological jobs.
The Republican didn't fare so well with the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, which gave him a perfect score of ..... zero on issues it supported. The folks at Defenders feel so strongly that Mr. Pombo must go that it runs an anti-Pombo web site that's dubbed, no so nicely, "Pombo In Their Pocket." And then there's "Say No to Pombo," a blog devoted 24/7 to sending the Republican back to the farm.
Over at the League of Conservation Voters, Mr. Pombo sided with that group 6 percent of the time.
Pretty good track record, no?
Anyway, if you're in California's 11th District, please vote for Jerry. And if you're not, at least support the guy financially with a stop at this website.