Entrenched agency culture is hard to change

  Dear HCN,

Is there any hope that change will come from within either the Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service? My naive answer as a former federal public-lands agency employee used to be "yes," if enough conservationists and a few good leaders entered the ranks. Now, after 20 years, my answer is a feeble "maybe," if many more decades are an acceptable time scale.

The change in my view occurred after Jim Baca lasted only a short time as director of BLM before he got the political ax. He knew that the agency's entrenched grazing-logging-mining leadership had to be gutted in order to implement real change, but he never got the chance to cut out the cancer.

Past history shows that litigation, exposure of abuses and passage of laws through outside efforts appear to be the only way to resolve historic and ingrained problems associated with profiteering from our public lands. Nothing of substantive positive change has ever solely come forth from within the agencies themselves.

To fully alter agency culture, natural-resource activist organizations must become organized in every Western state and include systems for receiving anonymous tips about abuse of the public trust. Then the decision by federal employees may one day be easy to make: Do I swear allegiance to the natural resources of our public lands - or to the supervisors and agencies that have sold out to the commodity interest for so many years?

Richard Kroger

Wood Lake, Minnesota