Saturday :: Nov 15, 2003

National Park Service Staff Voice Concern Over Bush Management of Parks

by Steve

A survey of over thirteen hundred current employees of the National Park Service finds that those polled feel that the Bush Administration is running the service in the wrong direction for the benefit of special interests.

The email-based survey of 1,361 employees accounts for a substantial 8 percent of all 17,035 permanent employees of the National Park Service. According to the survey, NPS staff-level concerns about the current Administration's stewardship of federal parks and lands are being fueled by a spate of controversial decisions including: permitting noise and other pollution from snowmobiles at Yellowstone to continue in the face of scientific evidence illustrating harms; the push to allow oil drilling on the pristine Padre Islands; and current White House plans to remove special protections for national parks from the pollution created by coal-fired power plants.

Among the key survey findings: Four out of five (79 percent) NPS respondents said that employee morale is lower than it was a couple of years ago. Three out of four (73 percent) of those surveyed expressed a great deal of concern about "special interest influence on park policies/decisions." Nearly nine out of 10 (88 percent) respondents indicated that they had a great deal of concern that "decisions are being influenced by politics rather than professional experience/science," with nearly eight in 10 saying that such suspect decision making is worse than it was just a few years ago. As a result, more than four in five (84 percent) of those surveyed expressed a "great deal of concern" about being able to protect park resources.

The survey was conducted for the Campaign to Protect Americaís Lands, and had other findings, such as:

Morale at the National Park Service has dropped significantly. In responding to the question: "Would you say employee morale at NPS is higher, lower, or about the same as it was a couple of years ago?", 79 percent said morale was lower, 16 percent about the same and only 2 percent higher.

Political/special interest influence is now a major concern for NPS employees. Nearly nine out of ten (88 percent) of respondents said they have a "great deal of concern" about "decisions influenced by politics rather than professional experience/science." Almost three in four (72 percent) said that things are now "worse" in terms of "special interest influence on park policies/decisions."

NPS employees are worried about the health of park resources. More than four in five (84 percent) of those surveyed expressed a "great deal of concern" about protecting park resources. A full 70 percent said that the weakening of environmental protections had grown worse in the last couple of years. Majorities also expressed strong concern about the threats of air pollution in the parks (58 percent) and the use of "recreational vehicles" 52 percent.

Current NPS leadership gets extremely low job approval marks. A total of 76 percent of survey respondents rated the National Park Service leadership "poor" or "fair," with only 20 percent giving the agency's management "good" or "excellent" marks. This finding is in keeping with the finding that 74 percent of respondents have a "great deal" of concern about the leadership losing sight of the NPS mission.

Management of the Interior Department is rated even lower than that of NPS. An overwhelming 85 percent of the survey respondents graded Interior Department leadership as doing a "poor" or "fair" job in "supporting NPS in fulfilling its mission."

The NPS staff have reason for their concerns. As the Times noted in an editorial yesterday, Gale Nortonís policy of opening up wilderness areas to the oil and gas industry for drilling can only have bad consequences, and as the Times noted, even some natural GOP supporters like ranchers are themselves angered by these decisions.

Bush and Cheney let the Oil and Gas Industry rape and pillage public lands, because the industry has given more than three quarters of its contributions to the GOP since 1998. Moreover, having Norton and former industry lobbyist J. Stephen Griles at the top of Interior ensures that the concerns from the NPS staff are validated.

Griles is a man of questionable ethics, who has already spent more time meeting with his old cronies and planning how to get rich off the parks than he has spent in trying to improve them. But that is the Bush/Cheney way: putting the private interests of the elite ahead of the public interest of the many, and getting rich while doing it.

Steve :: 8:01 PM :: Comments (0) :: Digg It!