Senate says 'Yes' to Bomar

The US Senate has voted to confirm Mary Bomar as the next director of the National Park Service. The confirmation really isn't much of a surprise. When you consider that a guy like John Bolton, the very controversial nominee for UN envoy, made it through the Senate vote earlier in the year, there was no way that Bomar wasn't going to make it.

In the days after she announced that she was stepping away from the NPS, the National Parks Traveler described Fran Mainella as being a political 'lapdog'. And, frankly, it is an opinion that a lot of people share. Now comes Bomar. Will she be a strong leader, or will she be a 'yes' woman bowing to the demands of politicians?

I don't pretend to know how the political game is played. And so, when I read Bomar's responses to written Senate questions, I couldn't decide whether she knew exactly what to say to pass the test, or whether her answers revealed that she has no backbone. A few Senators asked questions of Bomar, clearly trying to solicit an opinion, only to be met with an uninspiring 'by the book' answer. An example:
Senator Cantwell asks, do you support H.R. 5732, which would direct the Secretary of Interior to continue stocking fish in certain lakes in North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area? Please describe any specific concerns you may have, or why it is supported by the NPS.

Answer: The National Park Service and the State of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are in agreement with all elements of the Mountain Lakes Fisheries Management Plan. A 12-year study, resulting in the plan, applies the best available science and provides for the removal of fish in some lakes and continued stocking in others. I understand the Administration has not yet developed its position on H.R. 5732. If confirmed, I will carefully review the plan and consider whether H.R. 5732 will assist with the plan's implementation and is consistent with NPS priorities.
It seems like the answer a computer might give, impersonal and devoid of opinion. There are quite a few questions about the Park Service budget. Many folks have identified the shrinking NPS budget among the biggest threats to the Park Service mission. You wouldn't know this from Bomar's response however.
Senator Martinez asks, do you feel the NPS has enough resources to effectively manage all our parks, conduct routine maintenance, and hire and retain staff? If not, what would you recommend from a budgetary standpoint to improve the mission of the Park System.

Answer: As a result of Congress's strong support, record levels of funds are being invested to staff and improve our parks, and significant investments are being made in the maintenance of park facilities and roads, and in monitoring and protection of the park natural resources. We are also working smarter by employing a number of innovative management approaches to identify management improvements and efficiencies that will result in improved visitor services and more cost-effective operations.

NPS reached its 90th anniversary in August. If confirmed, I plan to carry out President Bush's vision to ensure that the NPS budget will 'further enhance the national parks during the decade leading up to the 2016 centennial celebration.' (President Bush, August 25, 2006). As I stated at my confirmation hearing, I will be a strong advocate for funding and support of our parks. I look forward to working with the Congress to make the President's vision a reality.
I have a feeling that Bomar knows exactly what she's doing. She never contradicts the guy who nominated her for office, and never blames Congress for any problems the parks may be experiencing. This is probably a good approach considering it's typically a bad idea to burn bridges before you start your first day on the job. After all, if she does think there are problems with the budget, she's got to be on good terms with the keepers of the purse. What will the purse keepers ask in return and what will Bomar be willing to give? The answer to that will determine whether she is the leader the parks so desperately need, or whether she too will be a political lapdog.

Thanks to Scott Silver and Wild Wilderness for posting Bomar's responses on their website