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Another Presidential Walk in the Park

Douglas Brinkley (David G. Spielman)

The Obama family heads to Yellowstone National Park on Saturday -- thanks, in part, to Douglas Brinkley.

The author was among nine historians -- including Garry Wills, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss -- invited to a private White House dinner with the president June 30. Each talked about the legacy of a past president; Brinkley discussed Theodore Roosevelt and his role in preserving America's natural resources -- the subject of Brinkley's new book, "The Wilderness Warrior."

The off-the-record dinner, reported Thursday by Vanity Fair, must have made an impression on the president. A few days later, Brinkley got a call from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar inviting him to drop by. The men spent two hours talking about conservation history, wildlife protection and where Obama should visit if he went to a national park.

"He was keenly interested in everything Roosevelt did," Brinkley told us. Salazar was especially intrigued by the 26th president's expansion of the national park system: In 1903, Roosevelt famously made a trip to Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Yosemite that resulted in sweeping protection of the land from commercial interests. Brinkley recommended Obama create a caribou reserve in Alaska, something like the one
Roosevelt mandated in Oklahoma to save bison.

Brinkley walked away impressed: "I think Salazar is going to be one of the great secretaries of the interior, in the tradition of Harold Ickes and Stewart Udall."

Brinkley didn't discuss specific details of Obama's trip, but hoped the president would visit Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. "Yellowstone and Grand Canyon are national parks, but ANWR is not protected." He also lobbied for park status for Maine's North Woods, "where T.R. first fell in love with the raw wilderness of America."

But Brinkley said he's thrilled the first family is setting an example. "It sends the right message, that we need to treasure America's heirlooms. Yellowstone is our Louvre, the Grand Canyon our Westminster Abbey."

By The Reliable Source  |  August 14, 2009; 1:03 AM ET
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I find this charming portrayal of Salazar's alleged "keen interest" in wildlife conservation supremely ironic in view of Salazar’s decision to continue George W. Bush’s "open season" policy on wolves in the greater Yellowstone area. Since this man came into office, he has steadfastly ignored the urgent appeals of wildlife conservation groups asking him to halt the planned extermination of an icon of American wildlife by his wolf-hunting friends. Direct appeals to President Obama have similarly gone unanswered.

Posted by: Student_Of_Irony | August 14, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Should we have no faith in the administration's idea of conservation through its decisions via Ken Salazar? If anyone compares this administration's conservation initiatives with that of the Bush Administration, I think they should become students of history, not irony. The fact is wolves are protected, biologically Canis lupus is sound. Will a certain number be shot? Yes, however, Canis lupus will still prosper. Science has returned to government.

Look at the numbers of ungulates on federal park (or protected) land. There is a sustainable population of both wolves and ungulates.

As an employee of Interior, and a former employee of Yellowstone National Park, the siren song of wolf preservation sung by those that have neither studied the animals themselves nor have knowledge of the laws regarding public lands, provides fodder for the far right, sending the greater good to shipwreck. Canis lupus is not going to simply vanish, in fact the species will thrive.

I implore you America, take off your iron-on, wolf printed, black cotton, t-shirts. The next time you're on the boardwalk at Old Faithful in Yellowstone, don't call the instrument you remove from some beaded, leather, bag and blow into a "native american flute" - it's simply a 'recorder'. The fantasy, or in some cases ecstasy is over; wolves are fine. The fact is your anthropomorphism regarding wolves fuels the far right, it's bad for wildlife.

Get with the program - folks ranch in the west, that's not going away.

Posted by: taoslightning | August 15, 2009 11:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm simply noting a fact--that a Bush policy of open hunting season on a species of Yellowstone area wildlife is being continued by Mr. Salazar. You also might want to check your own facts: how can it make sense to assert that "wildlife conservation" involves hunting a particular species of wildlife? The wolves in this area have been seriously dwindling in numbers and recently were recovering. No species, however apparently robust, is "protected biologically" when humans have decided to target them for extinction.

Posted by: Student_Of_Irony | August 16, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

student of irony:

before you write your misinformed emails, learn what "conservation" means.

also, Mr. Brinkley is incorrect when he says the Artic National Wildlife Refure is "not protected."

Posted by: doughless | August 19, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

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