The Latest Bounce

by Jodi Peterson

New Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne won some friends in the environmental movement in June, when he junked a National Park Service proposal drafted under his predecessor, Gale Norton (HCN, 9/19/05: Revealed — secret changes to park rules). That proposal came under fire from greens, park employees and even some Republican lawmakers for relaxing rules regarding motorized vehicle use, grazing and other development in the parks. "When you mess with the parks, you’re messing with a national heritage," said Rob Arnberger of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. Kempthorne’s move returns to the previous policy of emphasizing conservation over recreation.

Another pack bites the dust. Beleaguered Mexican gray wolves took a hit in June when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered the Nantac Pack "permanently removed" from the wild. The two wolves were released in late April in New Mexico’s Gila National Forest; during their eight weeks of freedom, the pair scavenged a dead bull, then dispatched four cows. The wolves have now been shot. Earlier this spring, the Service inadvertently killed 10 members of the Hon Dah pack (HCN, 6/12/06: Mexican wolves face a rocky road to recovery). Meanwhile, the Service released four more wolves in Arizona’s Apache National Forest in mid-July. Will they meet the same fate? "Gosh, we hope not," says Elizabeth Slown, Service spokeswoman.

There goes the judge. The Justice Department has removed Judge Royce Lamberth from the contentious Indian Trust case, arguing that Lamberth has excessively excoriated the Interior Department over its mishandling of billions of dollars owed to tribes (HCN, 8/22/05: Congress and Indians spar over lost money). In the 10 years he oversaw the case, Lamberth held two former secretaries of Interior in contempt, ordered four shutdowns of Interior’s Web sites, and handed down scathing opinions of the agency’s behavior, calling it "a morally and culturally oblivious hand-me-down" and "the last pathetic outpost of the indifference and anglocentrism we thought we had left behind."

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