Politicizing America's National Parks

George W, bless his little heart, loves national parks. At least he tells us he does in various campaign ads and in carefully-staged photo-ops that picture him in khaki and plaid walking around our parks.

In fact, we now learn that George so loves national parks that he can't stand to hear any bad things said about them. So the Bushites have issued new, upbeat talking points, instructing all park personnel not only to speak positively about park conditions, but also to praise George himself for being so good for our parks.

They find it necessary to try dictating what's said about the parks because... well, the parks are deteriorating. Badly. This is especially embarrassing to George, because he had campaigned in 2000 on a solemn pledge to eliminate the $4 billion backlog in needed repairs to fix unsafe trails, clogged toilets, closed facilities,etc. But he didn't keep his promise. In fact, he has cut park budgets. The repair backlog now stands at $5 billion... and growing.

To try covering up the obvious, the Bushites issued an internal memo to park superintendents instructing them not to use the term "budget cuts" when telling visitors why things are such a mess, but instead to say "service level adjustments." Also, they were told to implement their budget cuts in "areas that won't cause public or political controversy." And if visitors ask about the bad conditions, superintendents were told to say: "This administration is very committed to preserving the resources of the national parks."

What happens if a career park official balks at the new BushSpeak? Ask Teresa Chambers. She's the first woman to head the U.S. Park Police in Washington, D.C. When she candidly told reporters that she did not have the funds to do an adequate job, she was forced to go on administrative leave and ordered not to talk to reporters.

To fight Bush's crude censorship and politicalization of our parks, call the National Parks Conservation Association: 1-800-628-7275.

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