How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?

With the upcoming change in the country's political leadership, is the sun setting or rising on the National Park System? Photo of sunrise from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park by photo by Atutu via flickr.

After eight years of highly questionable management of public lands by the Bush administration, the next administration will face myriad environmental issues when it takes office in January.

But how will it respond? Between the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and the shambles of the domestic economy, it doesn't seem as if there's much capital -- political or financial -- to be spent on environmental issues in general or the national parks specifically.

Looking back, the Bush administration has exacted a heavy toll from the public landscape. While promising during his first campaign to wipe out the National Park Service's ever-burgeoning maintenance backlog, which in 2000 was pegged about about $4.5 billion, President Bush failed to make hardly any inroads on that front. The result is that the backlog now is guesstimated at somewhere in the $9 billion range.

The Bush administration also did away with the popular National Parks Pass, a $50 gem that got you into any and all of the national park units as many times as you could squeeze into a calendar year. It also seemed to place a greater value on volunteers in the parks than full-time park rangers.

More recently, the administration is in the process of rewriting gun regulations in the parks, moving beyond the general allowance of firearms as long as they're dismantled and stored out of reach to permitting concealed weapons permit holders to pack their sidearm 24 hours a day.

This administration also has been questionably lax on air quality regulations, moving to rewrite the rule book in a fashion that would lead to greater air pollution at a time when more and more national parks are reporting air quality problems.

And, as the Traveler noted recently, under this administration the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has been kowtowing to oil and gas interests as well as the off-road vehicle lobby. And then, of course, there's the long-running snowmobile drama in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks that refuses to go quietly away.

While Dirk Kempthorne's arrival at the head of the Interior Department was an upgrade over Gale Norton, his legacy will not necessarily be sparkling in all corners. After all, under his direction the BLM moved recently to rescind the rule that allows Congress to direct Interior officials to withdraw public lands acreage that could be in danger of degradation. Interior also has a poor record on the Endangered Species Act; recent directives could seriously jeopardize future decisions involving species at risk.

And don't forget how the administration has been handling the recovery of the gray wolf in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, moving to remove ESA protections from the species only to restore them after a federal judge questioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's logic.

One could go on and on. But we need to turn the page on this administration and look ahead to the next one, whether it be led by Barack Obama or John McCain. As we've noted in the past, either one would be a substantial upgrade over President Bush when it comes to environmental issues and, in particular, concern for the national parks.

Still, one needs to question how much desire, and how effective, the two would be when it comes to protecting the environment. While Sen. McCain has professed his love for national parks and being environmentally conscientious, he has most recently come out strongly in favor of off-shore drilling. Sen. Obama also has endorsed off-shore drilling, although with caveats. Beyond that, he certainly hasn't jumped on the "drill, baby, drill" bandwagon as much as the McCain-Palin ticket has.

And, according to a recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle, Sen. McCain's talk is somewhat on the cheap side.

McCain was an early advocate of adopting measures to address global warming and says he favors laws to protect parks, oceans and air and water. His lifetime record in Congress shows that he voted three out of four times against legislation described as pro-environment by conservation organizations.

The groups are voicing concern that McCain has praised U.S. Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts as model jurists. The two have consistently ruled in favor of limiting regulation of business, including cases under environmental law.

Beyond the candidates' pledges and voting records, how much has the political landscape changed? Will the winner of next month's election hold steadfast to their past comments that the parks need better funding and that the Centennial Initiative is a good idea? Already the pundits are saying the economic realities of today portend ominous times when it comes to addressing environmental needs.

Now, the National Parks Conservation Association has been running a public awareness campaign that includes a petition Americans can sign urging the next president and the incoming Congress to provide greater federal funding and protections for the National Park System. The campaign includes radio ads featuring actors Amy Madigan and Sam Waterston and print ads featuring Petrified Forest National Park and the National Mall as examples of national parks nationwide in need of greater funding.

But, in these difficult economic times, is the American public fully invested in supporting such a campaign?


It should be Investing in park helped the economy before.

I put no confidence in the McCain & Palin ticket to upgrade and enhance our National Parks to the stellar quality that the National Parks Conservation Association advocate. With Palin (Alaska's famed "drill-baby drill" Governor) bragging about her so called record as a top flight oil minister for the State of Alaska, and her exploits as a gut bucket moose hunter and wolf hater, I do find her to be another exact carbon copy of the Bush Administration. Sarah Palin is most extreme and dangerous as McCain to the point where I feel our National Parks will be even more deeply in peril...if both elected (or selected). That is to say, I fear more rape, pillage...and greed! It appears Obama has a more pragmatic and common sense approach in handling our domestic and foreign affairs with diligence and transparency...and that includes a holistic approach in saving and upgrading the National Parks and our environment...sometime that has been terribly lacking since year 2000.

Although, a link is provided to the full story, I have to quibble with the following characterization:
"The Bush administration also did away with the popular National Parks Pass, a $50 gem that got you into any and all of the national park units as many times as you could squeeze into a calendar year."

It should be noted that the National Parks Pass was only introduced in 2000 - so it only had a 7 year run. Before that time, you could only purchase a Golden Eagle Pass - which was similar to today's America the Beautiful Pass. So you can still get a single pass that will get you into "any and all of the National Park Units as many times as you could squeeze into a calendar year." Its not that they "did away with" the Pass - rather they expanded the terms of the pass and raised the price.

Historically speaking, the price of the Golden Eagle was raised to $50 in 1997 ($68.16 in today's dollars). In 2000, the price of the Golden Eagle was raised to $65 ($82.58 in today's dollars), but the new National Parks Pass was established for $50 ($63.53 in today's dollars - or about $3.50 cheaper than what you would have paid in 1997 if you were only visiting National Parks). In 2007, we basically returned to the pre-1997 situation with a single pass for all Federal lands, at the new price of $80. The $80 this year is the same as $58.67 in 1997 dollars, so we are slowly returning back to that level.

The price increases have obviously not been exactly in parallel with inflation, but it is worth noting that today's America the Beautiful pass is a better deal than the circa-2000 Golden Eagle when the National Parks Pass was first introduced.

If anyone thinks that Obama willl be good for our parks...think again.
He will see that money goes to those who haven't earned "rebates" for those who haven't even paid taxes in the first place. Huge amounts of $$ to free health care for everyone...entitlements, entitlements, entitlements!! Obama's park budgets will be much smaller than even W's! Guaranteed!
Why will Obama care about the parks? He has only one park unit in his home state...McCain has 19 park units in AZ and Palin has 17 in AK...McCain has always been a strong advocate of our national parks...just ask any superintendent of the Arizona parks! McCain is in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt when it comes to our parks...and Palin has spent a lot of time in Alaska's parks.

McCain has supported parks in Arizona. But he has opposed efforts of individual Members of Congress to add to the national park budgets through "add-ons" of additional funding. I think it is silly for anybody to think Congress should just rubber stamp ANY Administration's budget, whether Republican or Democratic budget. If it had not been for the INCREASES from Congress to parks over and above the Clinton, Bush the first, Bush the Second and Reagan budgets, parks would be in even deeper trouble than they are. It is not clear if McCain really understands what parks need.

On Alaska, Palin has never been a particularly strong supporter of the National Parks in Alaska. The fact that there are parks in Alaska has very little to do with the elected politicians in Alaska. Although it is true that many Alaskans love the wilderness and did support the creation of Alaskan parks, and it is true that without the support of Alaskan Natives, the Alaskan parks never would have been established, it took widespread support from these Alaskans and many throughout the United States to beat back the united opposition to parks from the elected officials in Alaska. The real reason the parks were established was a trade off: in exchange for the construction of the Alaskan pipeline, deeding a huge amount of public land to the state (including Prudhoe Bay oil fields FOR FREE) and deeding large amounts of additional lands to Alaskan Natives, Congress agreed to set aside some portion of Alaska for protection. The Alaskan political establishment, neither Republican or Democrat, never would say anything nice about that, and did what they could to impair the effectiveness of those parks. So the fact that Palin is in Alaska says nothing about her support or understanding of the parks.

With Obama, his record is also indistinct. The text he provided saying he supported parks, but only specifically referring to paying down the maintenance "backlog" in parks makes you wonder if he understands parks either. The big and long term issue with parks today is land preservation and ecological management. While we still have a chance we need to set up a sustainable future for preserved areas, and that involves buying land and doing science. It also involves a redoubled effort to 'tell the park story' through good visitor programs. Kids today need to learn something about the natural basis of all life, and get some love for the out of doors and some competence in self-reliance in a natural environment. That will take re-imagining interpretation and visitor programs, which have been cut too far back. Too many good professionals are being pushed out of parks. If Obama just intends to focus on "backlog" he will forget the most important thing in order to maintain facilities.

Parks should not be used as a partisan, pre-election chance to rant in favor of this or that candidate. Both these guys have something to learn about parks. We should all realize that parks are about ALL of America, and FOR all of America. Together we should find ways to enlighten elected officials, starting with people who want to be President, that parks are supposed to symbolize the BEST in America, and we need them professionally managed so that they are not hammered into extinction. Lets start by buying up the private lands in parks while there still is a chance.

'Tis the unfortunate truth that the most certain, enduring and accurate legacy of any man is lies not within the context of one's rhetoric, but rather in the footprint one leaves behind. For anyone fool enough to actually be swayed by campaign speeches, you get what you deserve. Talk itself is cheap, but never as worthless as when uttered by someone whose goal is election to public office. 'Tis again the unfortunate truth that no accurate evaluation can be completed until after the fact, when the lies are exposed, the unspoken words become evident, or at times, when promises are accidentally kept. In the political arena, the latter is the minute exception to the rule.

McCain this, Obama that. Two losers with losing parties backing their efforts. Bear in mind that little that either of these Bozos thinks, speaks or feels comes to fruition without the blessings of the other 562 members of the Congress. We've been blessed with a system whereby no one person actually controls the direction on any given issue. We've also been cursed with little or no real choice between two power-mongering behemoths, only too ready to point fingers in the opposite direction as opposed to initiating substantive, positive momentum towards the common good of we, the people by whom they have been charged with steering the ship. That last notion seems to be conveniently forgotten once the ballots have been processed.

You can pass blame along to the current Bush administration and certain of its appointees for a portion of the current state of affairs. But many of the larger issues (e.g. mineral exploitation, deforestation, funding, and the myriad of environmental concerns regarding the general flora and fauna of our nation's public lands) are congressional, not presidential. Unless you're making reference to the entire administration, all 600+ of them, the initial question posed for this thread bears no fruitful answer. Remember, no matter which party wins the presidential race, the VAST majority of those "other" policy-makers will represent the "mule" party (or jackass, either one works, it's all good) including but not limited to the Speaker of the House who, at literally the 11th hour on the third day of debate, as part and parcel of an ADDITIONAL 150 billion in pure pork, allocated half a BILLION dollars to the movie industry as part of the economic bailout package. That's something the nation just couldn't live without during the most critical financial crisis in recent history, more special effects and Hollywood mayhem. This from someone who alleges to be a "friend of the park service" and is currently lobbying to increase the already overburdened park budget by adding lands in her hometown to the tally of things we already cannot afford to maintain. What about holding up the Congress for some NPS funding Nancy? Or does it make too much sense to procure both lands to enjoy and funds with which to manage and maintain them in the same scenario?

Note: To anyone truly anticipating "change" resulting from this or any other election in this country, pass me what you're smokin'. I too want to enjoy the mindless bliss that comes from being delusional.

There are a lot of "things" that need to happen with the park from the mundane, such as appropriate name changes, to the more serious the $4.5 billion maintance backlog and establishment of new parks. All of these issues are important and need to be addressed sooner rather than later. However, each of the candidates will address these issues differently.

It is my personal opinion that Obama is the most likely candidate to address these issues in a sufficient manner.

I do not have as much hope with McCain.

Lone Hiker,

As one of the main Volunteers at a NPS unit, I know how you feel as sometimes the simplist of things can take FOREVER to do.

P.S. If you find someone, I would like some of that stuff too.

I believe, and have experienced, making changes happen with Congress and the White House, whatever the party.

And, I think it is untrue that both parties will act the same. Also, I think Lone Hiker's broad and final-sounding comments are just not how it really is -- or at least so over-generalized as to be wrong in the list of things the Congress dictates regardless of the White House. Depending on how thoughtful and skillful the public support or opposition for a certain issue is, it IS possible to influence both the White House and the Congress. They are instruments, and can be played.

I also think it is possible to get past the cynicism and anger and feelings of futility, but it takes training people in how to be effective poltically, and it takes a willingness to be hopeful and open to the change among the people. Bugsyshallfall makes a good point in how long it can take sometimes to make change, but then, do we really want it to be too easy or too fast to change something like a longstanding policy of the US Government? One of the reasons I like the Heritage Corridor approach to preservation and regional action is, that Heritage model teaches people how to be effective, and gets rid of some of the voodoo saying it is impossible to make real change.

These political skills are actually simple skills, and can be taught. But you have to believe it is possible.

In case y'all ain't noticed it yet but the U.S. government is totally bankrupt. The rest of the world is finally unwilling to fund its enormous debt and far-flung military empire any longer, as the printing presses in DC keep churning out that worthless Monopoly money like there's no tomorrow. Welcome to Zimbabwe on the Potomac.

The gig is truly up and instead of quibbling about what the next lying tyrant is going to promise to do it might be a good idea to start deciding how to protect these parks under a new umbrella of care. The U.S.S.R. fell with much less weight around its neck than the crumbling criminal empire in DC, so to think that the current regime will last much longer is foolhardy at best and dangerously stupid at worst.

It won't be long kids, mark my words, this ship is about to sink. Quit rearranging the deck chairs and start looking for the lifeboats. It won't matter much at all which party is occupying the bridge when the hull touches bottom.

What we need is a whole new paradigm.

Beamis: I have read many of your blogs that reflects much negativity, dour and gloom. For the next generations sake, how about offering some solutions so that we can move forward instead of regressing into a blog of doom and gloom. You squawk and what new paradigm do you advocate? If we can give this younger generation a chance to renew faith in this country (like Barack Obama, Robert Kennedy Jr.) why don't you try to help, instead of being so overly pessimistic. Let's get rid of the old vanguard that resents change for the betterment of the whole. I believe the younger generation has the keys to drive this country forward into a new era of something that's refreshing, challenging and positive. Let's give them the chance that's long over due and deserve, instead of hog tying them down with corrupt dead wood politics. I truly believe Barack Obama offers this new direction to the next generation...young and old! The old vanguard refuses to see the brilliance in this mans power of positive thinking. I absolutely believe that Mr. Obama will be a great asset to the Dept. of Interior, the National Parks and the environment. Now, Beamis offer some solutions instead of regressing into the syndrome of sour grapes.

You may be right, but on your point that "the rest of the world is finally unwilling to fund its [our] enormous debt," in fact this week the US Treasury has been able to sell all the bonds it has wanted.

These international funders seem to be willing to accept next to no interest. International currency is moving back toward the Dollar and the Yen, and away from the Euro. Somebody seems to think the USA is a safer place to park money, right now, than anywhere else.

Not that I don't share your feelings about efforts to balloon an American Empire, and excess and debt.

Anon---I am not pessimistic in the least but instead see the coming collapse of the Empire as a positive opportunity to return our country back to the founding principles upon which it was founded. All I'm saying is that now is the time to plan for new ideas and strategies for running these parks after the inevitable occurs.

You cite Obama as someone who will restore "faith" in the country and that is where we are decidedly different because I will never give that part of myself to a governmental body. My faith is grounded in family, friends and community not Obama or a Kennedy or Ronald Reagan. Besides Mr. Obama does not differ very greatly from his opponent, they are much like a choice between Pepsi and Coke.

We no longer have independent candidates representing the views of the electorate; rather, we have two corporate brands fighting for market share – the only tangible difference between the two is the advertising (campaign promises). Obama (Pepsi) promises to be the "choice of a new generation," while McCain (Coca-Cola Classic) declares that he's "the real thing." But while the two products may taste slightly different, they both consist of the same basic ingredients.

We have a Congress with the lowest public approval ratings in history; yet both presidential candidates (and one vice presidential candidate) are, in fact, members of Congress. Even more discouraging, much of the "changes" offered by the two leading candidates are no more than cynical promises to undo the very messes they and their colleagues created.

For example, both Sens. Obama and McCain spent ample television time during the debates pledging to end "corporate welfare" as we know it. Sounds great, but only if voters ignore that both candidates (as well as VP nominee Joe Biden) just voted to spend hundreds of billions of taxpayers dollars to bail out giant corporations like AIG, General Motors, Chrysler and a host of stumbling giants on Wall Street. Take from the poor and give to the rich that's some paradigm for you.

Both the Republican and Democrat presidential candidates also favor America's ongoing war-mongering and imperialism overseas. McCain thinks that a multi-decade occupation of a sovereign country (Iraq) is perfectly acceptable for a nation that prides itself as a "beacon of freedom," while Obama thinks nothing of threatening military actions against Pakistan and Iran for so much as daring to engage in domestic activities that conflict with America's global interests.

Of course, it's not as if Sens. McCain or Obama are the problem per se; more accurately, they are the products of a system that is broken beyond repair – a corrupt federal Leviathan that pretends that duopoly is choice and that an oligarchy is representative government. Yet every few years, millions of Americans continue to give some semblance of legitimacy to this Orwellian standard of democracy by participating (voting) and perpetuating its existence. They elect to put a fresh coat of paint and new shutters on a home that's very foundation is collapsing, and afterward they wonder why their house remains uninhabitable.

No my friend, the sooner this whole edifice collapses the better. I take great solace in the fact I am alive to see it. The question for this forum will become what happens to the parks when the federal gummit is no longer solvent? It is something we'll be discussing sooner rather than later.

The American Empire is on the verge of collapse, and neither candidate is addressing that issue. The US is going broke.

If you compare the American Empire with the Roman Empire, you'll see where we're headed. Rome fell after debasement of currency lead to inflation; price controls exacerbated the situation; an oppressive and arbitrary tax system drove peasants into destitution and onto a dole that required tax from those who could still pay. As the Empire reached its apex, new booty stopped flowing into the government's coffers, costly wars became unsustainable, and Rome's military machine and empire collapsed.

The American Empire has 700 bases in 120 countries, and our empire is costing us hundreds upon hundreds of billions a year. We've devalued our currency through a fiat monetary system administered unconstitutionally by a quasi-governmental panel of bankers known as the Federal Reserve. We're seeing the heavy hand of price control in the housing market as government and the Fed struggle to keep interest rates low and housing prices artificially high. Inflation, when calculated with energy and food indexes, is over 10%, and the recent influx of newly-printed reserve notes into the system and the into hands of corporate banks will only further the debasement of the dollar. As the economy worsens, tax revenue will fall, and we'll have a choice to make: Save the Republic by shutting down our overseas bases and coming home from 120 countries, or continue the inflationary cycle to stretch out our occupation. I'm rather confident we'll do the latter, and the American Empire, like the Roman Empire and every other empire before it, will collapse.

When that collapse and the ensuing federal bankruptcy occurs, national parks will close due to lack of funding. Beamis has so aptly demonstrated how neither candidate has addressed the impending collapse, and I second his notion that we ought to look at other ways of protecting national parks.

Frank C. and Beamis: How can you honestly assess the holistic damage to this country and make prudent rational decisions until you have reach the presidential seat. We have no idea how extensive the damage is until Bush officially leaves office. I do admit we have a barrel of rotting apples running this country and must dump the ugly stench. But, to advocate and watch Rome burn on the sidelines and do nothing is extremely disturbing to me. I would certainly love to see more hope and faith injected into your comments and give the younger generation something to aspire too...instead of eking on (or even applauding chaos) for civil disobedience. In a way your comments suggest this...anarchy if you will! Now, that we have a black candidate running for the highest office (and most likely win) in the land, and all suddenly the doom sayers come out of the wood pile...along with the termites...and along with there speal of hopelessness and despair for this country. Youth is inspired by this election and rightly so. Let Obama be there beacon light of hope and dreams. I'm sure the National Parks will be in excellent hands under Obama's tutelage.

I'd also like to point out that the disintegration is already beginning to happen with severe cuts of all types occurring within the agency as funds for infrastructure, personnel and visitor services are being drastically reduced. The last few smaller parks that I've traveled to all had visitor centers staffed by volunteers and most of the people that I know that still work for the NPS tell me that morale is grim as the budgetary axe is falling all around them.

In some ways this is good news because it'll force institutional changes and a re-prioritizing of increasingly scarce resources but the longer term reality is that a government that spends $10 billion a month on blood soaked warfare with a Chinese credit card is neither morally fit nor fiscally sound enough to own and maintain national parks.

Parks are supposedly a sure sign that a society possesses a certain degree of civilized enlightenment, yet the imperial regime on the Potomac not only lacks this quality but is on pace to become the most reckless and dangerous the world has ever known. Continued faith in their governance is certainly a lost cause and probably more than a little immoral.

Dear Frank C:

1. Of your predictions of collapse, can you name some specific statistic or specific indicator or measurement now, which you will stand by, that will come to pass, say, in 2 years or 5 years to demonstrate that you are right about your prediction? Something that will then shape your opinion and future actions? I am remembering friends in the '80's who saw the collapse then of the American government and currency, and predicted that paper money would collapse and gold or diamonds would be the only substance of value. Some headed back to the earth, feeling that land and living off the land is the only safe and real alternative left. You (and they) could then see specifically whether they would deal with the facts of their predictions, or were just predisposed to cry "doom" as a way of avoiding responsibility and action in the world we actually live in.

2. It seems like every kind of doomsayer has their own simplistic take on the collapse of Rome, as reinforcing their conviction of the inevitability of their doom-saying and a priori beliefs. I know something about Roman history, and think things were a bit more complicated than you say.

But, for the purposes of clarification, I suppose you are talking about the "western" Roman empire, inasmuch as the richer portion of the roman empire in fact continued another 1,000 years. It is probably NOT true that the roman tax system was any more "arbitrary" than any other: in the west it did not tax the great estates and fortunes, and that is where the money was. that was policy, not arbitrariness. It did not effectively utilize the potential revenue from ongoing trade, which in fact trade continued for about another 400 years throughout the med. sea after the "fall" of Rome.

If I were to respond to your simplistic take on the fall of roman, my simple but more correct take is that the people of the roman empire stopped caring if it fell or not. There is plenty of evidence that the people of the empire in the West still had the capacity to defend the empire. For example, there is the famous case in what is now southern France where the barbarians just walked right in and took over. Nobody resisted, in the same way you and Beamis do not help keep the American civilization coherant. But then when the barbarians violated the religious feeling of the local population they did rise up, and pretty easily tossed the barbarians out. Civilizations fall because the governed no longer care about supporting that civilization. We have always had that choice in America like elsewhere, and our society has been distinguished by those who have helped her in need, as FDR did. There were always people who just predicted doom and stayed out of it. Even in the American Revolution, it is estimated that fully 1/3 of the population stayed out of it, many with glib quips or tales of doom as their rationalization.

3. Don't expect parks to thrive of there is no civilization left. Parks came into existence at the height of America's progressive ideology, based on the idea of planning and public good. You will need some element of capacity or interest in planning to help, and a belief in organized public good to sustain a civilization.

When people gave up in the Roman west, nothing much survived for hundreds of years. Most small landowners who still owned their lands became serfs, in effect slaves. They stayed that way until the 1700's.

There wasn't much left in their life for parks or gardens, and don't expect much to be left in yours.

4. Working for the public good is the one way forward.

You can cast me as a doomsayer all you want but I'll stick to this one pertinent question: How much longer can the government spend (borrow) $10 billion a month to wage needless war and still survive as a going concern?

We won't even go into the trillions for corporate welfare........

Not much left for the parks, is there?

My "simplistic take" was intentionally short and addressed what I see as the economic fundamentals behind the collapse of the (of course Western) Roman Empire and are based on the plethora of academic explanations available, including a particularly apt economic explanation by Ludwig von Mises.

As for my predictions for the collapse of our overseas empire and the fiat money system, I don't know when it will happen, but the answer lies in Beamis' question: "How much longer can the government spend (borrow) $10 billion a month to wage needless war and still survive as a going concern?" And I'll add: "How much longer can the government spend (borrow) trillions a year to maintain 700 bases in 120 countries?"

I'm not prophesying the doom of civilization or of America; I'm saying our empire and fiat money system are both unsustainable and will collapse, just like all other empires that debased their currencies to support their world empire.

Getting back to the topic of how the next administration will treat national parks, I suspect that either candidate will do better than the hopeless Bush administration has done. That said, I am more inclined to think that parks would fare better under an Obama admiinistration than one headed by McCain. For instance, I read an article several days ago that suggested that Steve Pearce, a NM congressman running against Tom Udall for Pete Domenici's seat, would be a possible choice for the Secretary of the Interior under Senator McCain. That thought strikes fear into the hearts of most park supporters as Pearce was Richard Pombo's choice to head the parks subcommittee when the Republicans controlled the Congress. He served without distinction and some would say that "serving without distinction" is not harsh enough. Other names mentioned in the article are Wayne Allard of Colorado and retaining Kempthorne. None of these names arouses a great deal of enthusiasm in me.

Rick Smith

Anyone who is mentioned in the same breath as Mr. Pombo should scare the bejeebies out of people who have even a cursory interest in the parks.

Info on Mr. Allard:
Latest LCV Score: 18%
In 1996, he ran against Gale Norton (yes, THAT Gale Norton) in the senatorial primary. He won the nomination.
Wikipedia says: "In April 2006, Allard was named by Time as one of "America's 5 Worst Senators." The magazine called him "The Invisible Man" and said he was one of the "least influential Senators" because he "almost never plays a role in major legislation" and "rarely speaks on the floor or holds press conferences to push his ideas" despite his ten years in the Senate and his presence as a majority party member on two key committees.[2] The Rocky Mountain News retorted that Time made the "wrong call" and that Allard was a "hard-working advocate for Colorado interests."[3] The Colorado Springs Gazette claimed the article was "soft, subjective, snide, impressionistic slop — further proof of the low to which this once-serious publication has sunk....Allard was a co-sponsor of the James Peak Wilderness Bill, which created a 14,000-acre (57 km2) preserve around James Peak, and added 3,000 acres (12 km2) to the Indian Peak Protection Area. Allard also sponsored legislation which created Colorado's 85,000-acre (340 km2) Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Allard is also chairman and founder of the Senate Renewable Energy and Efficiency Caucus[8] In 2006, the environmental group Republicans for Environmental Protection[9] praised Allard for his support of legislation to make the Army Corps of Engineers more accountable for its projects' environmental and economic impact, but censured him for supporting oil drilling both offshore and in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.[10]"

Why did the SF Chronicle not report on Obama's voting record? Could it be that he doesn't have one? If so, I guess you can only HOPE for the best - like on so many other issues.

To clarify a few points:
1) do we really want it to be too easy or too fast to change something like a longstanding policy of the US Government?
Yes, absolutely. The inference is that a long standing policy of our government equates to it being a good policy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
EX: we have a "long standing" national policy of backing the Saudi regime, who are as notoriously corrupt as our own ruling body, and whose people are (the majority anyway, as shown in a multitude of internal Saudi polls) as blatantly anti-American as any people on the planet, but our "look the other way and take the oil" policy is pathetic. We agreed to fund and our contractors were the majority interest in assembling the infrastructure by which the Saudi oil reserved could be harnessed and in return we were promised that our nation would reap the "benefit" of the largest oil producing nation in the world acting with our "national interests" in mind as OPEC was conceived and became the controlling body of the world oil network. In the days since, instead of working towards energy independence and cutting the Middle Eastern monetary giant off at the knees, we continue to pursue "national interests" throughout the Arabian Peninsula. Great policy, especially in light of the events of the past decade or so, don't you think?

2) Depending on how thoughtful and skillful the public support or opposition for a certain issue is, it IS possible to influence both the White House and the Congress. They are instruments, and can be played.
I guess that American public support and indignation on issues such as affordable health care, equalization of the tax structure, corporate welfare, a legal system that administers "liberty and justice for ALL", not just the lower and middle classes, education, social and national security, etc. etc. etc. is just not "thoughtful and skillful" enough to overcome the blockades that are the special interest lobbyists in Washington. A majority of the root of the evil that is capitalism is that only those who can AFFORD to support change can actually enact change. That simple rule effectively eliminates the majority of the population in this country ever experiencing the manner of "change" we seek. Using your criterion, I guess that makes most of us, by definition, unskilled, impatient and stupid. I profess to being unskilled in politics, and I hold career politicians in the highest levels of contempt for their inability to be accountable for the current status of our nation. I would, effective today, remove ALL career politicians from office to be replaced with skilled negotiators, people who can effectively research the needs of their constituents and work towards the most effective compromise on those issues, WITHOUT succumbing to the pork and influence that special interests demand.

3) Civilizations fall because the governed no longer care about supporting that civilization.
The fall of many empires over the history of mankind is largely attributable to two major factors: a) and inability to recognize the point whereby the empire could no longer effectively be "managed and controlled", and b) taking those from the lowest fiscal strata for granted and viewing their wants, needs and desires as socially inferior, or unworthy of serious consideration. Of the "great empires" of the past 4000 years, only the British of the 17th / 18th centuries began the process of pulling back the "reigns" before the entire system collapsed into chaos and ruin, and was the only great world power to not have the ruling family ousted from power by the people. Babylonia, Syria, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Mongolia, China, France, Spain, the Aztecs, Russia (shall I continue?) all met their end shortly after ascending to the pinnacle of international power. Our internal mechanisms more closely parallel those exhibited by Rome, France, Spain and the Aztec models. All were mighty military powers, far beyond the walls of the homeland. All exhibited great wealth that was, by and large, the profits of raping conquered nations. All were lead by wealthy ruling elite who did their level best to distance themselves from the "commoners" who supported and actually built the empires through their own physical toils, spilling their own blood when necessary. ALL eventually rose up in revolt against the ruling powers and deposed them, mainly through execution of the heads of state and their families. Taking those ruled for granted and neglecting their wants, needs and desires, or even more tragically, imposing YOUR wants, needs and desires on them, is the fatal mistake that sets the dominos in motion. The outcome is inevitable, chronology and geography be damned. This has nothing to do with lacking in desire to support the civilization, but rather, lacking the desire to support the governmental body, which is a separate issue completely. Pardon my metaphor...... but we, as a people, don't want the business closed. We just demand management that has the interests of the workers at hearts, not solely or exclusively the interests of accountants and majority shareholders. If, we're suffering, they should be as well.

4) Obama the Inexperienced, United States Senator for barely 1 1/2 terms, and currently only the Democratic Flavor of the Month because nationally, people hate the "Hillary and BillyBob the Cigar Manipulator Show" even more than they hate his lack of references and credibility, which places him on almost dead equal footing with Sarah the Governor of a State Most Schoolkids Can't Find on a Map of the United States, is too closely joined at the hip with both convicted corrupt politicians and convicted felons for me to be too comfortable with his ability to effectively govern without maintaining a "business as usual" methodology. His rhetoric rings hollow to these ears, as does that of his contemporaries and predecessors. It makes one wonder if killing for our national system of government was ever the right thing to do. I strongly encourage your ballot goes to Ron Paul, Ralph Nader, or Larry the Cucumber as opposed to supporting another administrative nightmare that will be the 2008 President of the United States. Will any of my alternative candidates win, or even stand a chance? Please......but at least you can look everyone in the face and claim that you, thankfully, did NOT support another 4+ years of ineffective American governmental lackluster leadership, from EITHER party.

Which really puts the immediate needs and overall future of our National Park Service in quite the conundrum, no?

A recent issue of Audubon magazine, probably the current one, has an excellent article on the candidates' positions on environmental issues, including the national parks. In this interview article, Obama and McCain respond to the same ten questions about environmental issues and alternatives. I'd love to report the gist of it, but I no longer have my copy of the magazine. Perhaps a Traveler reader could help?

The Presidential Candidates Face-Off