The Political Blotter

Too often politics and management of the national parks are entwined. Doubt it? The fingerprints of Vice President Cheney are all over the Yellowstone snowmobile fracas, as well as on failed efforts to safeguard the park's famed cutthroat trout populations.

And as the conviction and sentencing of J. Steven Griles demonstrates, the Department of Interior is not as squeaky clean of influence peddling as one might hope.

The vice president's influence on Yellowstone's management decisions, as well as other environmental issues, are laid out in a Washington Post story. As one might expect, Mr. Cheney went about his business very shrewdly.

"His genius," Paul Hoffman, a top Interior Department official who worked to see that the Clinton administration's snowmobile ban never took effect, told the Post, is that "he builds networks and puts the right people in the right places, and then trusts them to make well-informed decisions that comport with his overall vision."

As for Mr. Griles, while he likely enjoyed his ties to Jack Abramoff, that was not evidenced yesterday when he was sentenced. No, the 59-year-old broke down in tears before U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle. The judge, though, was not impressed and shipped Mr. Griles off to ten months in prison, twice the term prosecutors had recommended. You can read about Mr. Griles' sad day in court here.

Will the Interior Department and its subordinate agencies ever be free of political meddling? No, that would be too much to ask from our political institutions. We can only hope the harshest, most damaging, political pressures will be revealed and cast off.

Comments

The days of government management should be drawing to a close. The continuing faith that is placed in this oversized and self-perpetuating bureaucracy with its legendary mismanagment is truly astounding! Can any of you out there name even ONE efficient federal government agency? One that is free of self-promotion, careerism and image mongering? Yeah, that's what I figured.

I say it is time to begin a dialogue about deconstructing this silly mess of vertically structured incompetence and get "the crown jewels" placed in the hands of private or semi-private organizations that care about each individual park and want to do their utmost to preserve and protect them on a place by place basis. A good first step would be to have a non-partisan commission set up to look at getting rid of the "park barrel parks" that are in existence due to political malfeasance, much like what was done for military base closures in the 1990's. Do we really need a Women's Rights NPS unit? Or a park that honors "America's copper smelting heritage" in the upper peninsula of Michigan? How about Steamtown in Pennsylvania? Are these places worth the millions that are appropriated away from Yosemite and the Everglades every year to fund their upkeep?

Once these units are properly done away with we can then concentrate on how best to divest the crown jewels from the political theater of the absurd that is the U.S. Dept. of the Interior and put them into the hands of more competent and area specific caretakers who will be dedicated to their particular park area and not to some nebulous and sappy "national park ideal". Freeman Tilden is dead. So are his half-baked and mostly silly ideas. Let's move into the 21st century with a viable plan for preservation, not a continuing template for unaccoutable careerists who move from park to park to further a job ladder climb rather than a dedication to particular places that they hold near and dear to their hearts.

It's time to deconstruct! The 100th anniversary of the NPS should be about the end of the line, not more meaningless blather about a laughable "Centennial Intiative" followed by an endless string of more meaningless intiatives and yet more inane acronyms with a new museum in Washington, DC to "honor" the contributions made by the NPS in the distant past. No folks it's time to put this whole broken system out to pasture and start anew. That is the only way we will save the parks from their biggest threat: the NPS!

I am not against snow mobiles or them having races, as long as they pass some kind of mechanical inspection, it bothers me when I see any mechanical driven vehicle burning or leaking oil. All should be required to have a valid inspection sticker, a nominal fee should be charged. The inspection should cover all mechanical and safety items, good for only 6 months. To answer a question about over crowding at any Nat'l Park during the winter why not make it simple. If the normal snow fall is say 15 feet and going back to records say 10 years ago where they had the normal 15 feet and 1000 people came in, then for todays factor 15'=1000 people. If the snow fall is only 7 1/2' only 500 people would be allowed to have thier snowmobiles inspected and allowed in the park, this doesn't apply to regular people who only want to just visit and enjoy the park. I have been to Yosemite Nat'l Park and they only allow so many people in the park at one time. If 20 cars go out then they would let 20 cars in, even as they try to accomindate everyone they still let to many in at the same time. It is realy hard to enjoy a beautiful site when it is over crowded. All the money that is ear taged for Nat'l Parks should not be deluted down with special interest. If any one sends $15k for new picinic tables at a particular park, thats what is goes for, period. I was very fortunate when I was a kid, my parents took vacations every year and we went to just about every park, Nat'l, State, City or private parks. We realy got to enjoy them, very much as this was done back in the 50's and 60's and not many people at any of them, WOW how fortunate I was..