[ncnculture] From Roan: Bush appointees assault on parks has deep
roots by Todd Wilkinson
worldmind at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 10 21:10:53 UTC 2005
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Bush appointees assault on parks has deep roots
By TODD WILKINSON
Ten years ago this October, my fax machine rattled and
hummed. It coughed out a couple of sheets of minutes
transcribed from what had been an unpublicized closed
meeting in West Yellowstone.
Few people knew it had occurred. Details were passed
on by an anonymous source with the hope they would be
divulged in a newspaper column I was writing.
Readers soon learned about the infamous brainstorming
session that involved members of various Greater
Yellowstone area chambers of commerce arrayed under
the nebulous banner of the Yellowstone Gateway
The Gateway Alliance was led by Paul Hoffman, who in
recent weeks as a Bush administration political
appointee has come under fire again for orchestrating
another brainstorming session, this time at the U.S.
Hoffman, who once was a congressional aide to Dick
Cheney, today serves as a deputy assistant Interior
secretary. Beyond public scrutiny, he has been quietly
rewriting the government manual that guides management
principles in our national parks.
What Mr. Hoffman failed to achieve in Yellowstone in
1995 he is now attempting, more ambitiously, to bring
to every wildland national park in the country. What
is his agenda? Answer: To weaken the verbal legal
framework that protects national parks so that natural
resource exploiters are given equal, if not greater,
say over park management than park managers
A decade ago, Mr. Hoffman was executive director of
the Cody Chamber of Commerce and his animosity for
Mike Finley, then the superintendent of Yellowstone,
was well known.
Finley was a civil servant who spoke his mind, who
believed in the mission of the National Park Service,
and, who, after a long tour of duty in several crown
jewel parks, took his stewardship obligations
Much to Mr. Hoffmans chagrin, Finley was outspoken in
his argument that conservation yes, protection of
natural resources was foundational to Yellowstones
Finleys philosophy was reflected in the federal
Organic Act, drafted by Congress in 1916, which
required him to caretake Yellowstone in such a way as
to leave its assets clean air, clean water, healthy
wildlife, breathtaking vistas, natural sounds etc.
UNIMPAIRED by development so that future generations
might enjoy them.
The Organic Act is what Hoffman recently has been
accused of trying to undermine. He eliminated or
changed words that require park managers to be
vigilant with phrases that make such stewardship
optional if it is not to the liking of development
Suggesting a decade ago that Finley was ignorant of
the politics of managing Yellowstone National Park,
Hoffman brainstormed a list of possibilities to expand
tourist development and threatened to complain to the
congressional delegations [read HARM THE CAREER] if
Finley put up resistance.
It was definitely agreed by all that if a Yellowstone
Gateway Coalition is to have an impact, we need to put
together a package of proposals that are impossible
for Mike Finley to refuse, the minutes said.
Some of the ideas included turning Yellowstones roads
into four-lane highways to accommodate more people;
making bigger entrance stations, carving another road
into Hayden Valley; and curtailing strict regulation
on the number of snowmobiles.
Ten years ago, the Yellowstone Gateway Alliance had to
retreat after details of its meeting were revealed. A
few chambers of commerce even distanced themselves.
But we now know that Hoffman, who has no
on-the-ground-professional experience managing parks,
was hardly deterred. He was merely waiting for a
In recent weeks, when his 194-page rewrite of the
Organic Act was leaked, he tried again to shrug off
criticism but his cover has been blown. He does
everything possible to strip away a scientific basis
for park management, stated a recent editorial in the
New York Times. His rules would essentially require
park superintendents to subordinate the management of
their parks to local and state agenda. He also
envisions a much wider range of commercial activity
within the parks.
The point is not that gateway communities shouldnt
have a say in how parks are managed. Certainly, they
ought to, but their desires should not supercede the
compelling national interest in park protection.
The country must never forget that if left to the
desires of the local interests championed by Hoffman,
some national parks (including many in the West) might
never have existed.
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