Wednesday :: Dec 24, 2003

Bush's Christmas Present to His Best Buds


by Mary

Posted by Mary
Using the best Bush tradition, the Bush White House has announced that they are opening the Tongass National Forest to logging on the eve of Christmas eve. Those who have been watching the way the Bushies carefully release news about their plans to rape and pillage the environment on slow news days will not be surprised to hear that once again the Bushies have a special gift to give their corporate supporters -- this time it's for the timber companies.

They say they rely on the best science available, yet the science they use always seems to be based on faith, not data.

Have the Bushies found another way to get rid of or suppress those in government that oppose their policies? When googling for this story, I found a story about a top forestry official in the Missoula area leaving the forest service after having been cleared by the Inspector General of charges of misusing the governmental property. According to the news report, he decided to resign rather than being reassigned to a deskjob in Washington, DC.

Northern Region Forester Brad Powell will retire from the U.S. Forest Service in January rather than accept a reassignment to Washington, D.C., agency officials confirmed Thursday.

Powell, 53, had been the subject of an investigation by the Office of Inspector General because of allegations that he inappropriately used government computers to access pornography.

That investigation revealed "nothing of a criminal nature," Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth said when contacted by the Missoulian.

Still, Bosworth said, he "had some concerns out of the investigation" and - as a result - decided to reassign Powell to the Forest Service's Washington office as an associate chief.

"I set some very strong standards for honesty and trustworthiness," Bosworth said. "I have to be 100 percent confident in my nine regional foresters."

The investigation left him with "concerns about the use of government property," the chief said, and concerns about Powell's forthrightness when asked about the allegations against him.

So who is Brad Powell? Well, he had been a strong supporter of the Clinton forest policy. In 2001, he was moved from Northern California to Montana after displeasing his new boss about the master plan he had helped devise for the Sierra Nevada forests.

Brad Powell, who oversees the state's 20 million acres of national forests, has won broad support among environmentalists and scientists for overseeing completion of the Sierra Nevada master plan, which de-emphasizes logging and stresses the importance of wildlife conservation.

Powell signed the plan in mid-January, in the closing days of the Clinton administration. It is being appealed by a multitude of critics, including the state's timber industry, sportsmen's groups and several counties. "To some degree the framework obviously did not go well. . . . It does not allow good management of the forest," said Thomas Barile, chairman of the Sierra Nevada Access, Multiple Use and Stewardship Coalition, which is made up of 89 organizations, including chambers of commerce, bicyclists and river rafters.

Barile's group, which has joined the appeal of the framework, was previously represented by Ann Veneman, then a private attorney and now U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. In that post, she oversees the Forest Service. Veneman announced in February that she would recuse herself from all decisions related to the Sierra Nevada plan.

So who is replacing Brad Powell in the Montana forests? A veteran from Washington DC named Gail Kimbell. According to the report, she has spent the pass few years helping to get Bush's so-called "Healthy Forests" initiative passed.

Kimbell comes to the region after working in recent years to implement and secure congressional approval for President Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative.

"The Healthy Forests Initiative adds to the tool box that district rangers and forest supervisors have to make things happen on the ground," Kimbell said.

"There will always be challenges," she cautioned, "but I'm seeing a more active dialogue about what is a healthy forest and more people participating in that conversation than I can remember in my whole career."

The Bush White House is very hostile to whistle-blowers and any who stand in their way. The charges leading to the investigation seem to be made out of whole cloth -- even so, now that he has been cleared, his boss still believes he is ethically challenged. The innuendo applied to Brad Powell appears to be part and parcel of a smear campaign. No one knows why he is under a "cloud", just that he is. And someone is making sure that any future employers should know that he left under a cloud:

At the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, public relations director Steve Wagner confirmed that Powell will be that group's new senior vice president.

However, he said he knew nothing of the circumstances under which Powell was leaving the Forest Service - although, he said, he was not involved with the interview process.

Wagner was, however, able to contact the Elk Foundation's president and chief executive officer, who was vacationing in Colorado.

"This is new information for us," J. Dart said in a written statement Thursday night. "Certainly we'll look into it, but we understand the investigation was internal only and revealed no wrongdoing."

"Until we see facts that prove otherwise," Dart continued, "we're confident that Brad Powell is a man of integrity and great conservation leadership."

Perhaps when Powell leaves the government, we can find out more about this story, but it definitely goes along with other stories where people that made a fuss find their lives negatively impacted.

Mary :: 1:15 AM :: Comments (1) :: Digg It!