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Carl Pope

Carl's new weblog:
Taking the Initiative.

Field Notes Archive

Which is worst?
Vote for the Bush administration's
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Carl Pope's Field Notes

Best Foot Backward
10, 2004

I have been telling people all week that the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club has come up with the perfect metaphor for the Bush administration: Walking backwards. That's how more than 100 Sierra Club members protested Interior Secretary Gale Norton's visit to the Twin Cities last weekend.

The Secretary -- who is on a tour to promote the health benefits of outdoor recreation -- was greeted by an orderly line of Sierra Club volunteers walking backwards through Minnehaha Park to spotlight Bush administration decisions reversing thirty years of environmental progress.

Truth is, Secretary Norton has it right. There is a connection between public lands and public health. But it's frustrating to me that she doesn't appreciate the irony of this statement coming from an administration that is so clearly headed in the wrong direction when it comes to caring for our national parks, forests, monuments, seashores and other recreation areas.

This administration has weakened protections, cut hours, cut staff and failed to keep its promise to fix the massive and daily-growing backlog of maintenance problems at our National Parks -- a need now estimated at five billion dollars. The Bush administration -- as I uncovered doing the research for my book Strategic Ignorance, has stripped protections from a total area of public lands larger than Texas and Oklahoma combined and opened them up to oil drilling, mining and logging.

This irony makes me ponder the activities the Secretary is promoting through her "Get Fit" program: Jogging around the oil wells now allowed on the beaches of Padre Island National Seashore? Hiking through the clearcuts that the Bush administration has proposed inside the Sequoia National Monument? And we all know that snowmobiling through the last roadless areas of Yellowstone National Park is the best way to promote healthy bodies and healthy lands.

Isn't it?