Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

The Culture of Convenient Transparency

May 12, 2010
Op-Ed and Speech

The Culture of Convenient Transparency
By Rep. Rob Bishop (UT-01)
April 05, 2010

When President Obama said that his administration would be the most transparent in history, we wanted to believe him.  After all, he went so far as to issue a Presidential Executive order calling for greater transparency and open Government.  Despite the executive order, it soon became clear this was a façade.  Instead, this Administration has demonstrated a consistent pattern of hidden agendas and ulterior motives.

In February, I received a leaked copy of an internal Department of Interior (DOI) memo that identified as many as 13 million acres throughout the West as possible sites for national monument designations.  Such a designation would immediately place the lands under a restrictive lockdown, blocking access for public land users.  To those unfamiliar with the West, this could seem rather harmless.  After all, the Washington Monument and Statue of Liberty are two well known monuments that are visited by millions each year.  However, in the West, national monument designations sweep up large swaths of land and place them under lock and key.  This not only destroys Western communities that rely upon access to land, for such things as ranching, mining, grazing, farming and recreation, but it dries up a major source of tax revenue for local communities.
In 1996 President Clinton, with virtually no warning, designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, a 2,600-square-mile tract containing one of the U.S.'s largest known reserves of "clean coal."  The recently-leaked DOI internal memo alluded to similar designations, so the collective shock and outrage among communities throughout the West should not have been a surprise.  Nearly a dozen bills that would limit the President's authority to unilaterally lock up public lands have been introduced since the memo was leaked.
In an effort to shed light on the Department's secret documents, I, along with my fellow Congressional Western Caucus Members and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Doc Hastings (R-WA), issued an official document request letter to Secretary Salazar for the missing pages of the internal memo, which were not included in the original leaked document.  We requested to be in receipt of these missing pages one month from the date of the request, February 26.  Now April, the documents have not been handed over.  These missing pages will help address outstanding concerns and questions that the American people deserve to have answered.
When pressed on this issue, Secretary Salazar stated, "There's no hidden agenda on the part of my department."
It is apparent that this Administration is selectively transparent when it conveniently fits their agenda.  If there is no hidden agenda then why were these documents, which are public information, never delivered?  If there is nothing to hide as Secretary Salazar stated, then why the delay?
It appears that we must all continue to wait for the missing information until the Administration decides to live up to its promise of being more transparent.  If this past year is any indication, I won't be holding my breath.

Rep. Bishop's official document request included the following:

1. All pages of the "Internal Draft" document of which we obtained only pages numbered 15 to 21. ??

2. With regard to the "brainstorming," a copy of any documents distributed at or in preparation for the meetings, a list of all participants or invitees,any notes taken at the meeting (s), and any memoranda, work product or follow up documents from the meeting(s).  All records, electronic or otherwise, of meetings or discussions with private groups, individuals or other persons or entities that are not employees of the Department of the Interior where potential national monument designations were discussed.  All notes, agendas, memoranda or documents from those meetings.??

3. All documents related to the Secretary's initiative to compile a list of potential national monument designations since July 1, 2009, including, but not limited to, maps.??

    4.   Any communication with any person or entity outside of the Department of the Interior related to the Secretary's initiative since July 1, 2009.