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Rep. Rahall Plans Oversight for Park Service


Reprahall_copy    I wonder whether Mary ever considered the possibility that Democrats might be running Congress during her stint as director of the National Park Service? I mean, back when she was nominated and confirmed the November election was still almost two months off. Sure, even then the tea leaves didn't look good for the GOP, but Karl was sounding awfully confident.
    No matter, it is what it is. And for Mary, that means appearing before congressional committees that likely will be, shall we say, a bit more probing and demanding than those run by the Republicans. For a glimpse at what might be, here's what Rep. Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia, the incoming chair of the House Resources Committee, has to say about what he expects from the Park Service:
    "For nearly a century, the National Park Service has sought to conserve our country's significant natural, cultural and historic areas. Places such as the Grand Canyon, Gettysburg, or the ancient pueblo dwellings of Mesa Verde are all eloquent characters in our American story. These sites are meant to be managed by the National Park Service in a way that will provide enjoyment, yet leave them unimpaired for future generations. Achievement of these goals requires balance, vigorous public participation, common sense, and humility in the face of the challenge before us. But consistent underfunding and misplaced management priorities have left park infrastructure crumbling and park resources degraded. There are even instances, such as the management of bison at Yellowstone National Park, where current policies are causing the destruction of an American icon. We must commit to careful review of park proposals to ensure that they are consistent with the overriding mission of the National Park Service, and conduct oversight of decisions made by the Administration to ensure sound stewardship of our natural and cultural heritage."

    Kinda makes you want to reserve a front row seat with a box of popcorn, no?
    Of course, talk is cheap. Last April we heard the requisite concern voiced over the plight of the national parks and little seemingly was done. So while Rep. Rahall's words sound promising, let's wait to see his actions before applauding too loudly.


It will, I dare say, take more than one or even a dozen members of Congress championing the Park Service's cause to reverse the terrible trends of the past half-dozen years. A public uprising is called for -- on this as in so many other parts of the public trust.

So, Alan, I'm intrigued. What would the public uprising look like? Depending on what such an uprising would look like, count me as interested. And, yes, I agree. I wrote about this in respect to my particular favorite park on my blog, "No New Radical Wind in Yellowstone," and provoked a response out of Kurt. But, there are public uprisings, and then there are things called public uprisings, and so I'm curious what you mean and how serious you are. Jim

Uprising!? I think Earth First with Dave Foreman (at the helm in the 1980's ?) tried to bring attention for some source of public out cry over the rape and pillage by are run amuck capitalistic out of control goverment.

Snowbird, I know some people in Earth First! I know some people who have been involved or have been alleged to have been involved in much more militant groups than that (need I say more?) In DC, there definitely is a gap between the grassroots people's movements on various social justice issues and those in the environmental movement. No one here gets along very well, but it's mostly personality conflicts more than politics. I have a lot of experience in grassroots movements and a lot of thoughts about what makes them successful or not successful. One thing I'm sure of, though, is that nothing meaningful or beautiful changes from the top, that all changes of any substance happen from the bottom. So, I want to see movements without people at the helm (at the top) in order to make that happen. That has a million challenges...ten million challenges...a billion challenges...but I can't think of any other movement really worth living for. If there needs to be a public uprising, it has to start in local communities and has to respect each voice within those communities, and so it has to build a sustainable base. It involves a lot of not so sexy work building infrastructure. It has to be able to absorb many defeats. I am wary of building a national parks strategy that depends on increasing visitation to the parks, for obvious reasons. I think if you care about the parks, you must build an appreciation of them and connect them to those other things going on in local communities; they are connected. That strikes me as more sustainable and not dependent on support simply from the puppet masters who work at foundations. I also believe such a movement has to be essentially nonviolent (though nonviolence is an extremely loaded term, and I meet it with suspicion usually when I hear it), though not non-forceful or passive (satyagraha, right?). Unfortunately, most nonviolent movements are essentially passive and are not willing to use any kind of force whatsoever. Is blocking an intersection to keep people from going to work violence? I've heard that said! Gandhi would be rolling in his grave to hear how people interpret his teachings. Any public uprising that is meaningful is truly public, truly participatory, and truly inclusive of a wide web of related issues, strategies, and tactics (and the wide tension and animosity that results among people within a movement). It must have education and skill sharing and resource sharing and trust building at its very core. The rightwingers who come here think what I am saying is liberal; it's not liberal. The liberal would organize a public uprising around putting pressure on the government to make changes, essentially to reform a system that's otherwise pretty good. The liberal might accuse this of being libertarian, but it's not that because you must show fundamental respect for the small local core of people you work with and must be accountable to pretty much everyone and every being in the universe. If it's not liberal, the rightwinger calls it socialist, but it's certainly not that, since this isn't about taking over the machinery of government, it's about reconnecting government back into the people who supposedly make it up. My friends aren't terribly fond of liberals or socialists, though we find ourselves somewhere on the left (I guess - it's not clear to me we fit on any linear spectrum). However, I have a soft spot for everyone :). Earth First! as I understand it uses something like this model of organizing. I worry, though, about basing a movement wholly in principles of deep ecology without a more (and less) robust ideology. As much as I think deep ecology moves things in the right direction, I think it's not encompassing enough, which is perhaps why there is such a division among radical environmentalists and radicals who work on other issues. I also don't think it's always rooted enough in the community. On the other hand, in places, it may be a way of starting. As I explore people's movements in Greater Yellowstone, I'll be interested to see what presence groups like Earth First! have had in that part of the Rockies. I must admit I haven't heard much at all. It will be fun to learn. So, are you saying your dream is to blow up Hoover Dam? (umm...don't answer that...LOL)

Jim, very good commentary! What are you a nut shell? Sounds to me your ready to light a fuse somewhere. In regards to the Hoover Dam and like environments, maybe John Wesley Powell would of thought messing with the Hoover Dam. I think Edward Abbey had it right..."The pen is mightier than the sword" in theory! Stick to your pen Jim!!

Jim et al, I fear we as a society are too self-centered and distracted to muster any type of uprising, mass or otherwise, in defense of the national parks. We can't even manage much visible protest over the Iraq conflict. Remember the 1960s and the Vietnam protests? Kent State? Much was at stake for young Americans back then. The draft existed and death was not much farther off than a notice in your mailbox from the Selective Service folks. Today there's no draft and, so, little outward concern of being scooped up out of your comfort zone and deposited in Bagdad six months down the road. We see no sustained protests over our nation's health care policies, no sustained protests over this administration's tax policies, no sustained protests over the looming insolvency of Social Security. And so I hold little hope that there will be any mass uprising in defense of national parks. Hell, we can't even get members of the congressional national parks caucus on the same page. Back in the 1980s Earth First! attracted headlines for its "tree vaccinations," the uprooting of survey lines in the wilderness, and Ed Abbey's wonderful book. But it was such a rag-tag operation and couldn't compete financially with the big boys and so lost its ability to be a meaningful force. That's another key problem: money. PR campaigns are so slick and invasive these days that it's laughable to mount an uprising without budgeting for that aspect. Scott Silver at Wild Wilderness certainly has the passion burning in his belly to focus an "uprising," but lacks the deep financial pockets. So as much as I'd like to see a grassroots uprising in the name of national parks, I hold out little hope. I think we're stuck with lighting candles with hopes Congress will do the right thing.

Jim don't despair, long as we have Kurts blog and your solid impute (and others) the battle to keep the National Parks in sovereign hands for the American public...there's always hope!!

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