Put on a Happy Face

Describing the natural wonders of Yellowstone or giving out
directions to visitors in the Grand Canyon are more difficult for
National Park Service employees now that the Bush administration
has effectively muzzled them. Among other things, budget cuts and
poor air quality have plagued our National Parks ever since the
Bush administration began diverting funds away from maintaining our
natural treasures and toward national security and the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq. But talking about these issues is a big
no-no, says Washington. When dealing with the press and the public,
‘Superintendents are now required to refer to budget cuts as
‘service-level adjustments,’ and they’re advised to avoid the topic
when possible,’ writes Amanda Griscom in Grist
Magazine
.

Instead of a complete gag order, the Bush administration is
actually putting words in the mouths of its regional Park
administrators. ‘The superintendents have gotten orders from
Washington to follow a set of sunny, feel-good ‘talking points’
during any interaction with the media, according to internal NPS
emails obtained by [Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER)] and made public [on May 12],’ Griscom
continues. Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, puts it bluntly
when describing the National Park Service under Bush: ‘It’s the
reverse of the Midas touch — instead of turning to gold,
everything they touch turns to shit.’

The consequences for disobedient NPS employees are clear. Teresa
Chambers, chief of the U.S. Park Police was put on administrative
leave last December and forbidden from speaking to the press at the
risk of losing her job, outright, after she removed her muzzle and
told The Washington Post that, as Griscom puts it, ‘the
diversion of staff to homeland-security duties had led to gaps in
other areas of service, creating, by extension, possible
public-safety problems in parks and on parkways.’ Read more about
Chambers’ trials at
http://www.honestchief.com/

Jacob Wheeler

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Put on a
Happy Face

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