Tuesday, June 10, 2008

11th hour conferences

Have you ever gone to meeting where people who will no longer be in charge of you organize the meeting and try to make big decisions that bind their successors? You would have if you had ever been involved in anything dealing with an executive branch, whether local, state, or federal.

Most of my readers I am sure have heard about the supposed negotiations between still-President Bush and Iraq PM Nori Al-Maliki to sign some sort of rent to own contract for hundreds of military bases in Iraq. If you dislike President Clinton's 11th hour roadless rule, his creation of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, or his pardons, you owe it to yourself to be upset at Bush's attempts to bind the hinds of President Obama or McCain with regards to the nature of US presence in Iraq.

But I bet you haven't heard of the million dollar meetin' at Snowbird on Federally owned lands, including National Parks and Forests with outgoing secretaries.
The national meeting, set for July 16-17 at Snowbird, will bring together more than 400 park superintendents and other top Park Service officials to hear from Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Park Service director Mary Bomar, Utah Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and others.
Park Service spokesman David Barna said, "It's really almost ridiculous that we don't do this more often." He noted that it's been 20 years since the last such gathering and said, "We're planning two days of meaningful work. This is not politics."

President Bush came into office pledging to eliminate a multibillion-dollar maintenance backlog in the park system, fixing decrepit buildings, roads, trails and sewer systems. He will leave office in January with a to-do list longer than the one he inherited.

At the same time, park operating budgets have been shaved, and some public services, including educational programs and visitors centers, remain curtailed. The administration has fought with conservationists over snowmobiles and other motorized vehicles, clean-air standards and firearms in parks.

"Their actions have fallen significantly short of their commitments," said Ron Tipton, vice president of the National Parks Conservation Association.

A May 29 posting on the Park Service's internal Web site for employees says the July meeting will focus on goals such as how to reconnect Americans with their park system, develop new leaders for the system and highlight plans for the system's 100th birthday in 2016.

Those plans include a controversial proposal to raise private money to undertake projects in parks, including building new facilities and launching new programs. The Bush administration says that will mean new resources for the parks, but opponents say it will invite increased commercialism.
So some say this is a propaganda tour, others that it is a chance to legitimize things the Administration would like to do anyway--like letting extractive industries into national parks and forests. And Adminstration spokespeople say it is just a necessary meetin'. Go on up to Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort in July and let us know which one, if any, it is.

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