NORTON : 5 of spades
do these signs mean?)
Gale Norton's confirmation hearing as Secretary of the
Interior, Martha Marks, President of Republicans for
Environmental Protection, testified:
did not want to be here today. I am a life-long Republican.
I am a Republican elected official. And I had hoped
that our new President would choose an Interior Secretary
who was committed to the great conservation tradition
of Theodore Roosevelt. We at REP America would have
cheered such a nominee and defended him or her against
as Republicans who believe that conservation is fundamentally
conservative, we are compelled to speak out against
the nomination of Gale Norton. With so many pro-conservation
Republicans qualified for this position, we cannot
understand why President-elect Bush
chose someone who holds views shared by only a minority
in our party and the nation at large."
group is not just moderate Republicans. Barry Goldwater
was a member.
genuine conservative approach to nature is incomprehensible
to today's radical right extremists; "While I am
a great believer in the free, competitive enterprise
system, and all that it entails, I am an even stronger
believer in the right of our people to live in a clean
and pollution-free environment."
Norton was appointed Secretary of the Interior after
a long career demonstrating loyalty to industry's interests
rather than those of the environment or American people,
whenever they contradicted big money, as they usually
did, on public lands and resource issues. Americans
consistently say they want more environmental protection,
more preservation of wildlife and wilderness, and more
environmental sensitivity, with the interests of oil,
gas, and mining development having to fit into those
priorities. Norton disagrees.
her actions, it is easy to suspect that her grasp of
the word "public" in "public lands"
is a bit weak, perhaps even illiterate. Part of the
controversy over Norton's work has been her professed
adherence to a "libertarian" approach to the
environment. But libertarians object to government subsidies.
As we shall see, Norton demonstrates no such scruples,
at least when large corporations are involved. Neither
public servant nor principled libertarian, Norton's
record below demonstrates what she really is.
On June 11, 2001, Norton wrote Alaska Senator Murkowski,
responding to questions he had asked about drilling
in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:
you for your letter of May 15, 2001. I am pleased
to respond to the questions that you have asked about
the resources and wildlife in the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). As the information provided
below demonstrates, I believe that we can ensure that
any exploration and development of the oil and natural
gas reserves in the 1002 Area of ANWR can be conducted
in a manner that is protective of the environment
and minimizes impacts on wildlife in the area.
What is the Porcupine Caribou Herd's historic calving
historic calving range of the Porcupine caribou herd
(PCH) covers an area of approximately 8.9 million
acres. Figure 2 shows the extent of calving
during 1983-2000. Concentrated calving occurred primarily
outside of the 1002 Area in 11 of the last 18 years."
Norton's letter was dishonest. Here is what she had
been provided by Interior's own Fish and Wildlife Service
scientists as a draft of the letter:
"Thank you for your letter of May 15, 2001 .
The questions in your letter are presented in bold
below, followed by our responding information.
What is the Porcupine Caribou Herd's historic calving
historic calving range of the PCH extends across the
arctic coastal plain, foothills, and northern mountain
valleys. Figure 2 shows the extent of calving
during 1983-2000. According to historic records,
calving concentrations have not occurred on a relatively
small portion (Canning delta and northern coastal
margin) of the Arctic Refuge "1002 Area."
Portions of the eastern segment of the Central Arctic
Herd use the Canning River delta area for calving.
There have been PCH calving concentrations within
the 1002 Area for 27 of 30 years
used the agency's statement that the migratory Porcupine
do not concentrate most of their calving in the 1002
area in years of late snowmelt, because they can't reach
it in time. Then she added that "concentrated calving
occurred primarily outside the 1002 area in 11 of the
last 18 years," when she should have said "inside."
also neglected to mention Fish and Wildlife's data illustrating
that "calf production and early survival of calves
are lower in such years" when the caribou do not
calve in the 1002 area.
Michael Grunwald, "Department Differences Show
Over ANWR Drilling," in the October 19, 2001, Washington
March 3, 2003, the New York Times reported that
the National Research Council issued a report on oil
drilling at other places on Alaska's north slope. The
report had been commissioned by Republican lawmakers
who supported drilling for oil in the Alaska National
Wildlife Refuge. The report concluded that widespread
environmental damage would likely never be repaired,
at least in the lifetime of anyone living. This was
due to the fragility of the terrain, severity of the
climate, and the complete lack of any state and federal
requirements that oil companies clean up after themselves,
or restore damaged areas. The chairman of the panel,
Dr. Gordon H. Orians, professor emeritus of zoology
at the University of Washington, said "There's
no vision and planning for where things ought to go."
He added "Unless this is improved substantially
undesirable effects in the future are likely to be greater."
(New York Times, 3/5/03)
made no change in her position, even to the point of
demanding oil companies clean up after themselves in
the way the report suggested might significantly alleviate
the damage they would cause.
In its perpetual quest to appear other than it is, the
Bush administration, has asked a United Nations committee
to remove Yellowstone Park from a list of World Heritage
sites that are As usual, this is spin. The report they
cited by Yellowstone's professional staff disagrees
with the administration's claim they are addressing
the problems that put Yellowstone on the endangered
list in 1995. A draft report by the staff earlier this
year identified continuing threats to the well being
of Yellowstone's streams, bison herd and cutthroat trout
as well as the overall quality of visitors' experience
in the park. The major remaining threats were mining
waste (see below), introduced lake trout, and introduced
for the LA Times, Elizabeth Shogren pointed out:
" The final report sent to the international committee
by the Bush administration had toned down or even deleted
these concerns." Shogren quoted Roger G. Kennedy,
a former director of the National Park Service, as saying
"Tinkering with scientific information, either
striking it from reports or altering it, is becoming
a pattern of behavior." Kennedy added "It
represents the politicizing of a scientific process,
which at once manifests a disdain for professional scientists
working for our government and a willingness to be less
than candid with the American people."
Norton just can't seem to treat Yellowstone as anything
of more value than a trading chip for special interests.
Winter snowmobiles have become a major issue in Yellowstone.
Because of serious air pollution Park rangers at entrance
stations need to wear gas masks. Welcome to wild nature!
this mess is added noise pollution, haze around Old
Faithful, and adverse effects on wildlife. After considerable
research the Clinton administration decided to phase
the things out in favor of snow coaches which also give
access to the park's winter wonders, but without the
negative side effects. Upon taking office Norton's Interior
reversed the decision, despite 300 pages of research
by the Park Service (that Norton chose to keep secret),
and the overwhelming input of the public.
and her allies justified their decision by claiming
that the new four stroke versions of snowmobiles would
be quieter and cleaner than the old two stroke engines.
(New York Times, 1/31/03)
out less than a year later the new snowmobiles are dirtier
than the old ones. Four stroke engines are cleaner and
quieter, for the same horsepower. But the new machines
are dirtier and noisier than last year's because they
have more power. Bush's EPA has also concluded they
should go. Ironically, environmental groups are taking
Interior to court to get it to enforce the law they
used to allow snowmobiles into the park because, under
that law, the new snowmobiles are illegal! As the New
York Times editorialized on October 13, 2003, "in
the way they've handled this matter, the Interior department
and the snowmobile manufacturers have been guilty of
disingenuousness at best, lying at worst." Given
Norton's record, we'd vote for lying.
being caught altering the data she sent to Sen. Murkowski,
Norton responded "We did make a mistake. We will
take steps to clarify and correct that." Obviously
she failed to correct it before the Yellowstone episode.
But maybe that finally showed her how to avoid future
Norton wants to "contract out" work currently
done by National Park Service scientists. Contracting
out has two advantages. First, contracted out work encourages
scientists to come up with answers those hiring the
agency want. There is no civil service protection for
work that does not please political superiors, and the
likelihood of contracts being renewed is based on the
satisfaction of politicians with the conclusions the
researchers reach. Second, Norton does not have to be
embarrassed by agency scientists exposing her decisions
as scientifically baseless. It is a double gain. For
her. A double loss, for science, the environment, and
the American people.
example, Washington State's spotted owl population has
declined dramatically over the past 15 years - perhaps
as much as 50% in the Olympic Peninsula and Cascade
Mountains. This information is from research by the
US Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Stations.
It is also not welcome to the Bush administration. So,
Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded a private consulting
firm $415,000 to study whether the spotted owl should
keep its listing as a threatened species. If the company
receiving the grant wants to receive more grants, we
can guess what they will discover. If they are good
scientists, there may well be a tough decision for them
the Rule of Law I
Due to inaction in protecting Arizona's Sonoran pronghorn
antelope, in 2001 a court ordered her department to
take clear steps to protect the animals from extinction.
In 2002 the population had dwindled to between 50 and
80 antelope. The chief causes have been fragmented grazing
due to grazing allotments for subsidized cattle, military
bombing, and disruptive activities by many federal agencies,
leaving it vulnerable to the drought currently gripping
the region. Almost all fawns died in 2002 and the population
had dramatically fallen from 250 or so only a few years
did nothing, despite the ruling, forcing Defenders of
Wildlife to go again to the courts asking the judge
to enforce the earlier ruling.
the pronghorn are down to possibly as few as 20 individuals.
Soon Norton's new environmentalism will have solved
the problem of pronghorn extinction. Courts be damned.
the Rule of Law II
Norton has had plenty of time to deal with a problem
she inherited from past Secretaries of the Interior
- the Department;'s criminal negligence of its trustee
duties on behalf of Native Americans. Yet she has been
held in contempt of court (like two predecessors) for
refusing to clean up trust records over Indian lands.
Elouise Cobell wrote in August, 2003, that Interior
"cannot certify the accuracy of a single one of
the estimated 500,000 current individual Indian trust
accounts." Tens of millions of acres of native
owned land have been leased to oil, gas, and mineral
companies, and the proceeds used for anything but their
legal purpose: assisting native peoples.
prattles constantly about the sanctity of contract.
What about long standing contractual obligations to
the peoples who formerly owned this land - and who still
have legal claim to some of it? But of course, Norton's
devotion to contract and property rights holds only
for the powerful. Indians need not apply. Nor, for that
matter, need any other citizens who do not have "Inc."
after their name.
kills for political gain
Norton's Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for the
death of over 35,000 coho salmon on the lower Klamath
river in California. Norton overruled previous agency
decisions and instituted a 10-year plan to manage Klamath
River flows at levels below the minimum recommended
by the National Marine Fisheries Service scientists
to protect endangered salmon. The fish died so that
tax payer subsidized farmers could continue receiving
scarce water to grow crops they could not sell profitably.
Meanwhile, Indians treaty rights (property rights, Ms.
Norton?) and commercial and recreational fisheries were
hung out to dry. (Free market environmentalism, Ms.
on such a mammoth scale is yet another example of the
moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the radical right's
domination of our government, a domination deaf to science,
good sense, morality, and the public will. However,
a domination apparently very open to the influence of
a man utterly ignorant of biology but filled with a
need for personal power.
result has been another lawsuit by an Indian tribe,
the Yurok, against Norton and Interior, and this year,
a wiser approach to preserving decent water flows in
the Klamath. Hopefully the politically inspired disaster
of last year will not be repeated, even if only to prevent
political embarrassment rather than any concern for
the environment on Norton's part.
The full cynicism of Norton's stewardship at Interior
comes clear when we see that she saves major anti-environmental
policy announcements for Fridays, when Americans are
paying attention to the coming weekend, and news follow-through
will be at its weakest. In 2003, on a Friday evening
in June, after Congress recessed and too late for the
news, Norton's Interior announced an end to any further
wilderness designations of public lands, opening up
250 million acres to mining and drilling.
Public service, Bush style.
this past Friday (October 11, 2003) the Interior Department
acted again, overturning regulations that strictly regulated
how much public land could be used for dumping mining
waste. Mining waste provides the largest volume of toxic
waste annually dumped in the United States, so Norton's
actions will have a profound effect on may areas. Again,
profits for subsidized private corporations triumphs
over protection of the public's land.
Market" Environmentalism, Norton style.
more on the role of corporate cronies and the dept.
of Interior, see http://www.foe.org/new/releases/1003myers.html