Whistling in the park

  • John Mecklin

 

Thanks largely to Bob Woodward and his trusty Deep Throat, whistleblowing is a vastly overromanticized endeavor. Government professionals who wish to publicize, and thereby alter, official behavior that they find unethical or illegal actually have few attractive options. Speaking openly about the problems of the agency that employs you is apt to be extremely unhealthy — even fatal — to the average public service career. Blowing the whistle through "proper" channels is often a good way to gain assignment to your agency’s Fargo, N.D., branch office, whistleblower-protection laws notwithstanding.

And because I’ve spent about half my working life as a reporter, and about half of that time listening to the complaints of government employees, I can tell you that government whistleblowers who decide to provide the press with information on a confidential basis often consign themselves to months or years of hellish stress. No matter how careful an unnamed whistleblower and his reporter are, if the information made public is embarrassing enough, the agency involved will go to amazing ends to find and punish the leaker. And as recent federal leak investigations show, today’s unnamed and public-spirited whistleblower can be tomorrow’s unemployed malcontent (or, in some cases, tomorrow’s criminal defendant).

So it is nice to read, in Stephen J. Lyons’ "Old but Faithful," about the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, a group that has, in its short 3-year life, served whistleblowers, reporters and the public interest, all at once. The group, which includes a remarkable array of former national park supervisors, acts as an intermediary, funneling inside information and documents about threats to the national parks from the Park Service rank-and-file to the general public.

Already, Lyons notes, the retiree group has achieved a signal success, revealing a set of proposed revisions to national park management policies authored by Paul Hoffman, a former executive director of the Cody Chamber of Commerce now serving in the Interior Department’s upper reaches. Working through major newspapers, the group made a national issue of Hoffman’s absurd revisions — which seemed to value motorized recreation in the parks over their long-term preservation, among other things — and stopped them cold.

The retiree coalition joins other groups — among them Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, a group of local, state and federal workers — that help protect government professionals who want to bring their environmental policy concerns to the press, and thereby the public. The Park Service retirees will never be as sexy as Deep Throat, and it’s unlikely a movie will ever be made about them. No, they’ll just have to settle for saving Yosemite, Yellowstone and a few dozen other natural cathedrals, for all Americans and all time.

High Country News Classifieds
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • EVENTS AND ANNUAL FUND COORDINATOR
    The Events and Annual Fund Coordinator is responsible for managing and coordinating the Henry's Fork Foundation's fundraising events for growing the membership base, renewing and...