By WAYNE HEIMER
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure / What give one man pain brings another man pleasure / The best example of this in my life / Is me and the guy who married my ex-wife. -Anonymous
The proof I’ve found of this truism is that Acting Regional Director for the National Park Service, Greg Dudgeon, has been promoted to one of the “plum” jobs in the National Park Service.
Dudgeon will be the superintendent of Mt. Rainier National Park. This position is based in Seattle, and oversees one of those well-established National Parks where the petroleum-clad, well-behaved urban environmentalists go to commune with nature while assiduously avoiding participating in it.
The NPS news release says Dudgeon’s “. . . ability to work collaboratively with partners to preserve Park resources makes him a great fit for this job.” Nothing could be more accurate. In his new position, Mr. Dudgeon won’t have to resist cooperation with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, deal with the nettlesome problems of subsistence, or cope all that much with a clear Supreme Court decision that says the Park Service can’t do whatever it wants on navigable waters. Also, he won’t have to put up with unruly Alaskans like Jim Wilde and John Sturgeon. This change to a more traditional park should suit Mr. Dudgeon to a T. The new job seems a great fit for Greg because he has been an exemplary protectionist manager for the NPS in Alaska. He will simply have to “protect Park resources” and values at Mt. Rainier.
As we learned at the NPS “pre-100th anniversary” party a few years ago, the NPS mission has three parts. They are “stewardship, public education, and research.” “Stewardship” is bureau-speak for protection of the National Parks. For me this raises the question, “Protection from what?” The obvious answer is protection from human uses.
When the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) was first proposed, it was clear the perceived need was protection of Alaska’s “Crown Jewels” from human uses. The result was a singular focus on protection. Other parts of the NPS mission in Alaska are insignificant compared to protection. Research, albeit mostly biologically esoteric does happen, but doesn’t change much. Public education is primarily protection-focused NPS dogma recited by trained rangers. Aside from Denali National Park, relatively few visitors actually make it past park headquarters in Alaska. Still, rigorous protection of Park “values” as well as lands and resources, is the obvious priority.
Dudgeon’s service in Alaska was marked by an intense “stewardship” emphasis. This emphasis gave us the Jim Wilde incident and the John Sturgeon case on the Yukon River.
All Alaskans should be grateful that Dudgeon’s minions cited John Sturgeon for his use of Alaska’s navigable waters. The results of that citation were two unanimous decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court that the state manages navigable waters. Governor Dunleavy recently had to tell the Park Service (and other feds) that he’s serious about enforcing Alaska’s right to manage its waters. They didn’t like hearing it.
The NPS news release lauding Dudgeon’s ability to work collaboratively with partners and communities is baloney. It’s what you’d expect to hear from an Interior Department headed by a “stewardship-focused” leader where a tree-spiking eco-terrorist has just been nominated to direct the Bureau of Land Management. Dudgeon may have been the least cooperative of all NPS officials during his tenure in Alaska.
One example I witnessed was Dudgeon’s arbitrary shutting down the late-season wolf trapping season in Yukon Charlie Preserve because a state wolf control program had purposefully lowered wolf numbers outside the preserve to help recovery of the Fortymile Caribou Herd (which provided Alaskans with several millions of dollars worth of red meat last year).
Although the wolf harvest there had been one wolf every couple of years, Dudgeon closed the season. When asked why, he referred to a waterfowl harvest model from the Central Flyway in the lower USA. Based on that model of duck harvest, Dudgeon said he could not risk the loss of a single wolf to Alaskan trappers in the Yukon Charlie Preserve.
That’s extreme “stewardship.”
Also on Dudgeon’s watch, federal regulations banning biologically insignificant, traditional Native subsistence harvest practices were passed (over state and local protests) on federal lands in the Arctic. Congressional review was required to overturn that decision on refuge lands.
The NPS had abitrarily done it earlier in Gates of the Arctic Park, and even Congress could not revoke that biologically unnecessary, hyper-protectionist regulation, which had to have involved Dudgeon’s support as Regional Director for Alaska.
I’m glad the NPS has decided to reward Dudgeon with a cushy promotion where his talent for protection from human uses will be appreciated more than in Alaska.
Sadly, the fact that the Department of Interior would reward a record like Dudgeon’s with praise for his ability to work with others probably shows that the Department of Interior remains singly “stewardship-focused” when it comes to Alaska.
Sen. Dan Sullivan recently called for President Biden to withdraw his nominee for Director of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) because of her membership in an eco-terrorist organization. If President Biden ignores Sen. Sullivan and the Senate confirms Tracy Stone-Manning as BLM Director, we’ll know that Alaska has no friends at the top of the Interior Department or the Biden administration.
This may call for even more stringent action from Gov. Mike Dunleavy to stop the “stewardship mania” which has infected the Department of the Interior since the first Earth Day.
Wayne E. Heimer has been watching, reporting on, and participating in Alaska’s battle with “the feds” for about three decades. This experience defines his perspective.