Park Service leadership appears infected with a bad case of Disney-envy

The National Park Service is fast approaching its centennial but has lost its way as it approaches this precipice. Rather than embrace the aspects that prompt many to call our national parks “America’s best idea,” Park Service leadership appears infected with a bad case of Disney-envy – symptoms include a burning desire to transform national parks into corporate-style destination resorts.

In the latest manifestation, Park Service officials have embraced a plan to let its concessionaires wire the parks and become the cyber-guides for visitors – with cute talking corporate logos replacing interpretative rangers wearing Smoky Bear hats. This follows new rules to wrap research permits into corporate profit-sharing agreements. In the background is the campaign to raise a billion dollar corporate endowment controlled by the Park Service director. Corporate money also entails corporate involvement in park policy – such as the fiasco in which Coca-Cola donations threatened to derail park bans of disposable water bottles.
At the same time, the agency has turned away from protecting wildlife and the unique habitats that parks afford. From the desert tortoise to the Florida panther, Park Service managers are subverting safeguards that were even defended by Bush officials. Even park plants are not safe from harvesting schemes. Not only is the huge unfinished park wilderness agenda marooned by lack of leadership, but the agency is facilitating mountain-bike racing trails carving deep into park backcountry. Mountain bikes are just the front wave of a number of actions to turn parks into thrill sport venues. Meanwhile, park rangers and others who seek to protect park resources from potential corporate benefactors are subjected to the torture of the damned. At the advent of the Obama second term, it is time to consider the need for new leadership at the National Park Service. Help us keep this spotlight pointed where the sun rarely shines. Sincerely,

Jeff Ruch
Executive Director

P.S. Another area where the Park Service is falling down on the job involves the vast trove of cultural and historic resources in its custody. The situation at Petroglyph National Monument is a prime example where politics are beating out resource protection. Please sign our petition urging new safeguards for the invaluable rock art at Petroglyph.

P.P.S. Speaking of anniversaries, this month starts PEER’s 20th Anniversary. Please help us stick around for another 20 years helping embattled public servants. P.P.P.S. The vaunted Obama scientific integrity program has devolved into an empty exercise in which any official explanation for blatant political manipulation of science – no matter how lame – passes muster.

P.P.P.P.S. Is an “unauthorized email” a crime? It is to the Interior Inspector General. Take a gander at an investigative persecution that could cause Franz Kafka to rise from the dead and write another novel.

Just-A-Reminder: PEER carries a 4 star Charity Navigator rating (the highest level) for meeting charitable accountability standards.