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Fearing 'Unprecedented Land Grab' During Election Year, Group Urges 60,000 Interior Department Employees to Use Tipline; Concerns Grow About Accelerated Industry Rush for Favors if Bush Re-election Appears Uncertain; Appeal Also Prompted by Repeated Interior Stalling on FOIA Requests.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- The nonprofit Campaign to Protect America's Lands (CPAL) announced that it is sending an email today to 59,684 Department of Interior employees urging them to use a confidential tipline (1- 866-LANDTIP or http://www.landtip.org/) to report any new anti-environment rules or other steps related to America's public lands, parks or wilderness areas that may crop up in the coming months. CPAL's goal is to thwart a whole new round of special-interest proposals that are expected to clog Interior if panicked industry executives come to believe that President Bush is unlikely to serve a second term.

"Our concern is that industry demands for special treatment at Interior will go beyond the fever pitch they've been at already if companies start to worry that President Bush is fighting a losing re-election battle," CPAL Director Peter Altman explained. "These companies literally will start grabbing for anything that they can get their hands on, and the Bush Administration likely will go even further to subvert the democratic process in order to accommodate its powerful friends. As we saw it, we had two options. The first was to sit back and then lament the damage done after it is too late to do anything about it. The second option -- the one that we chose -- is to expose the attacks on the environment as soon as they are reported to us by diligent Interior Department employees who understand that their solemn mission is to protect America's national parks and lands."

The CPAL email to Interior Department employees reads, in part: "As a steward of America's natural resources, I realize that you have dedicated your career and life to our public lands, the natural and cultural legacy that we will pass along to the next generations. I applaud your efforts and join you in your dedication to these valuable national lands.

"Unfortunately, I write to you now out of concern for our nation's most treasured resources -- our national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges and other public lands which play such significant roles in shaping our identity as a nation and country ... We fear that the unprecedented land grab that we have witnessed in the last few years may be on the verge of accelerating, with more and more of America's public lands given over to private concerns with few protections for the environment or public interest ... Therefore, I am appealing directly to you, as an employee of the Department of Interior, for assistance in understanding the operations and activities of the Department that are detrimental to America's public lands, parks, refuges or wilderness areas."

The CPAL letter also notes: "It is no secret that [America's parks and public lands] are under assaults both obvious and subtle. Our repeated efforts to understand and document this process have been ignored or dismissed by (Freedom of Information Act) FOIA officers in the D.C. offices of the Interior Department."

The mass email push coincides with the Department of Interior's 154th anniversary on March 3rd. For the full text of the email letter to nearly 60,000 Department of Interior employees, go to http://www.protectamericaslands.org/ on the Web. The Department of Interior has over 70,200 employees.

To illustrate the types of new problem steps that Interior might take on behalf of industry, CPAL also released today a laundry list of 59 misdeeds the Bush administration has made at the expense of America's parks and public lands since coming into office. An interesting fact that emerges from a reading of the new CPAL list: Of the 39 policies initiated during that time, nearly half -- 17 -- were announced on a Friday or during a holiday period. The CPAL list is available online at http://www.protectamericaslands.org/.

ABOUT THE GROUP

The Campaign to Protect America's Lands conserves our natural and historical heritage by exposing policies that permit destruction of our parks and public lands for private profit. The Campaign to Protect America's Lands is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. CPAL publishes Land Line, a weekly investigative newsletter focused on public lands issues. Visit CPAL on the Web at http://www.protectamericaslands.org/.

CONTACT: Stephanie Kendall, +1-703-276-3254, skendall@hastingsgroup.com, for the Campaign to Protect America's Lands

Web site: http://www.protectamericaslands.org/ http://www.landtip.org/
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Feb 26, 2004
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