Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bomar's Boondoggle

It is just one hundred and ten days before the election, but the National Park Service is working overtime to waste tax dollars. National Park Service Director Mary Bomar is requiring everyone one of her cash-strapped park superintendents to attend a summit on increasing the capacity of National Parks.

The numbers are impressive. Four hundred and seventy-nine officials, including thirty-two from headquarters, are meeting at the Snowbird resort in Utah. Each attendee must pay their own way from their own budget. Travel alone runs around $479,000. The stay at Snowbird piles up an additional $154,000 using government summer per diem rates for the area.

For two-days, attendees heard inspirational presentations from outside speakers and discussed the changing nature of park attendance. No one was bold enough to mention that Bomar’s “Core Operations” (see my February 15, 2008 blog – “National Treasures”) has gutted park operations or that its official intent has been to eliminate or dramatically reduce public programs in each park. The workshops on “increasing capacity” were also a joke as Bomar and her predecessor, Fran Mainella, have presided over a strategic crippling of Park Service capacity.

The official media releases from the summit offer a cheery tableau of unity and rekindling of team spirit. The last release talks about an “emotional closing”, including putting together a time capsule to pass on to a new generation of leaders. Bomar even waxed poetic about parks being special places. The final component of this “Potemkin village” was screening excerpts of PBS’s new series on National Parks. Instead of forcing park professionals to attend this taxpayer-funded swan song for Bush operatives, the money should have been spent on saving our history. We don’t need new propaganda-inspired time capsules. We need real resources to reverse seven years of wanton disregard for our heritage.

It is a sad commentary on how the Bush Administration has so decimated the Park Service, and so demoralized its ranks, that the careerist attendees were afraid to use the summit to launch a full-scale rebellion against these years of abuse. There needs to be a full accounting for the years of neglect and under-funding that have occurred under Bush and his henchmen. Thankfully, the Interior’s Department Inspector General is beginning to probe into how years of mismanagement have destroyed national treasures and are placing many more items at risk. We can only hope the next President takes decisive action to erase and reverse Bush’s shameful legacy.

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