May 16, 2008

US ignores Indian sites at risk

Group:  Cultural sites in national forests threatened

Activists cite lack of funding for lack of protection by Forest ServiceIndian pueblos, Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields and trails used by Lewis and Clark are in jeopardy because the Forest Service lacks the means to protect them, a prominent preservation group said Thursday.

The nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation released a report saying the U.S. Forest Service lacks a clear legal mandate and the financial ability to protect thousands of historic sites and buildings on national forest lands from development, vandalism and other threats.
The report at a glance:Here are some highlights of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's report, "The National Forest System: Cultural Resources at Risk:"

Only 1,936 of 325,000 U.S. Forest Service sites identified as historically or culturally significant are on the National Register of Historic Places. Only 27 are designated National Historic Landmarks.

About 80 percent of the 193 million acres the agency manages in 44 states and Puerto Rico haven't been surveyed for cultural and historic sites.

Heritage programs account for less than 1 percent of the Forest Service's $4.4 billion budget.

The Forest Service has two architectural historians. It manages roughly 40,000 older and historic buildings.

The trust recommends doubling the Forest Service's $14.5 million annual budget for heritage programs.

The trust says statutes should be amended to explicitly recognize the Forest Service's responsibility for historic and cultural resources on the lands it manages.
Comment:  For the umpteenth time, here's how we "honor" Indians--by giving pretty speeches while their physical culture deteriorates and disappears.

In related news, the Bush administration continues to advocate tax cuts for the rich while pouring money down the drain in Iraq.

Allowing someone to harm these sites is a tragedy and a travesty, if you ask me.


dmarks said...

The news is not really related. The federal government has vast monetary resources, only some of which are spent in Iraq. The tax cuts (most of which are for the middle class) have coincided with increased revenues coming in.

I recall reading and hearing about these threatened sites during the Clinton administration... when there were more tax hikes on the middle class, and the US was at war in Iraq but at a much lower (and significantly less expensive) level).

This reminds me of the claims I have read in the past couple of years about all the societal problems we could quickly solve if only the federal government were not spending money on the Iraq war. Whoever keeps making these claims must have a memory that goes back only to the year 2001, because these same problems they mention existed all through the Clinton administration.

It is a lack of leadership that continues through administratoons, with federal bureacrats making more and more money and not putting a priority on the public service mission of their agency. There's a chance a President Obama would change this, but I doubt it.

Rob said...

Yes, the news is related. I've explained before how Bush's tax cuts are skewed to the rich and how his economic policies have hurt Indians and Indian sites. See Our Underfunded National Parks and Bush Slaps Tribes in the Face for details.

I've never claimed we could solve society's ills by ending Bush's war on Iraq. But clearly the war is a huge waste of money. Redirecting those funds would help solve such problems as underfunded Indian services.

P.S. When you wrote "administratoons," did you mean that all administrations are cartoon-like mockeries of sound fiscal management? ;-)

Rob said...

I think it's pretty well accepted that the Bush administration has hurt our national park system. Here are some reports on the subject:

White House Policies Divert Funds from National Parks

Environmentalists say the Bush administration is forcing the National Park Service to cut millions of dollars in needed repair and rehabilitation projects in order to pay for homeland security and to pay for studying the privatization of some 1,700 agency jobs.

A memo from the budget officer of the park service's Pacific West Region details that some 28 percent of funds earmarked for rehabilitation of facilities in the region's six states is being diverted for "anti-terrorism activities and competitive sourcing studies."

National Parks Fast Falling into Disrepair

According to the General Accounting Office, the backlog of deferred maintenance at national parks has grown to something between $4 billion and $6.8 billion.

Speaking at Everglades National Park the first summer of his presidency, President Bush pledged to "restore and renew America's national parks." Since then, however, the administration and Congress have budgeted $662 million in new funding for such improvements. That sounds like a lot, but spread over four budget cycles (2002-2005) it's inadequate to meet the need, say watchdog groups.

The private National Parks Conservation Association says $600 million in additional funds are needed every year to adequately chip away at the park maintenance backlog.

Groups That Exposed NPS Cover-Up of Park Cuts say Bush Team 'Dropped The Ball' on Nearly $100 Million, Possibly More in Park Funds

The Bush Administration's Department of the Interior is demonstrating "deliberate disregard" in its management of the national parks by failing in recent years to seek at least $87.5 million and as much as $170 million from Congress to offset costs to the National Park Service (NPS) for natural disasters, mandated employee pay increases and homeland security burdens, according to the two groups--the nonpartisan Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees and the nonprofit Campaign to Protect America's Lands (CPAL)--that made public on March 17, 2004, internal NPS memos urging park superintendents to make major park cuts and then to mislead the public and the news media about the cutbacks.

Rob said...

Meanwhile, how much is Bush's trillion-dollar war on Iraq costing us? According to one estimate, about $255 million per day.

Do the math: a $600 million shortfall in needed park repairs vs. $255 million a day spent in Iraq. By ending Bush's folly, we could immediately solve the park problem and begin solving many others.

So the issues certainly are related. Money spent on one thing is money not spent on another.

Here's the source for the $255 million figure:

How much is the war in Iraq costing us?

[Y]ou’ve got several comprehensive studies to choose from. One of the most up-to date comes from the National Priorities Project, and Amherst-Mass.-based group that tracks the impact of federal spending on local communities. Using a “top-down” calculation based on U.S. budget appropriations, the group estimates the total money spent or allocated comes to about $255 million per day, or a little less than $1.8 billion a week. That figure includes both military and non-military spending on things like reconstruction.

Rob said...

I'm glad you said Bush's tax cuts have "coincided" with increased revenues. Since there's no link between the two, that was an excellent choice of words.

In fact, there's little or no evidence that tax cuts lead to increased revenues. Here are some postings on the subject:

Myth: Tax cuts increase tax collections.
Fact: Tax cuts decrease tax collections.


There is no evidence whatsoever that tax cuts increase tax collections. Almost always, tax cuts have seen tax collections fall in the following years; tax hikes have seen tax collections rise in the following years.

Wall Street Journal recycles supply side nonsense

Those wacky editors at the Wall Street Journal are still peddling the supply-side nostrums that every respectable economist disavows. In an editorial today, they trumpet the recent decline in the federal budget deficit as vindicating President Bush's tax cuts.

This is wildly dishonest--tax revenues haven't grown! As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, they're down significantly from projections.

Do tax cuts ever raise revenues?

[I]t's awfully hard to imagine any cut in current tax rates (or the rates that were prevailing when George Bush took office in 2001) that would pay for itself.