June 20, 2006

Norton's perversion of conservation is dead.

So it turns out that the new Interior Secretary has decided to put out the fuse that the former had lit to destroy the national parks. The former, Gale Norton, a self-styled "market environmentalist", believed that parks should not be protected from industrial use. In other words, if Yellowstone had some natural gas deposits, then the government could permit private companies to destroy the land to get it. This approach is more aptly labeled anti-conservation. If conservation is the enactment of preserving parts of the environment, then Norton's philosophy refutes the basic logic of conservation itself. The national parks were set apart from all other land so that they could be protected from, not molested by, industry. The federal government has a formal process, begun by Ulysses S. Grant, pursued with astounding conviction by Teddy Roosevelt, and even continued by George W. Bush, by which it identifies land whose natural value supersedes any resources that can be extracted from it. Changing those lands is made impossible precisely so that seeing those lands will always be possible. Conservation is the exercise of preserving what we can of the earth we inherited. Norton spit on that legacy. Norton was replaced last March because of her insidious working relationship with Jack Abramoff. Her replacement, Dirk Kempthorne, is by no means green. He is for drilling in ANWR, and as a Senator from Idaho, he sought to pave highways through federal forests--two sins, for which, he cannot be forgiven. Yet, he has thrown out Norton's illogic, and with it, led the national parks away from the cliff that his predecessor was too eager to push them off of. Annie and I are heading out west in a couple of weeks. We'll see Yellowstone and Devil's Tower and the Grand Tetons and the Badlands. It'll feel good to know that there isn't a "For Sale" sign on every tree.