Magazine article Insight on the News

Fur Flies over Possible National Parks Nominee

Magazine article Insight on the News

Fur Flies over Possible National Parks Nominee

Article excerpt

The Smokeys are restless in the National Park Service: The top spot is open, and a leading candidate for the position is a source of great agitation to Western land-rights activists and Yosemite inholders.

He's a gangster in a green uniform," is the way Chuck Cushman, head of the Land Rights Association, describes Mike Finley, superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. And a lot of people agree with him. Yet the controversial Finley's name is being bandied about as one of the leading contenders to replace Roger Kennedy as director of the nation's parks.

Finley has had a long career in the National Park Service including stints in the Everglades and Yosemite. It was while he was superintendent of the California park that he prevented the US. Forest Service and California Division of Forestry from helping put out a small fire at the western edge of Yosemite. The fire, left untended, roared through a nearby canyon and burned to the ground the entire community of Forestra. Among those who lost their homes was Alan Henninger, whose people have been inholders in Yosemite since the 1940s.

"All of the houses went up in flames; that pretty much tells you everything about the fire," Henninger recalls. "We weren't allowed to go back to our property although the National Park Service was bringing the news media in and reporters were rummaging through people's belongings on television. And then Finley goes on television and says that the fire has created a toxic-waste area. They did everything they could to keep us from rebuilding. Afterwards we found out that they actually went around with video cameras prior to letting the houses burn down. It was terrible."

Henninger is appalled at the idea of Finley as head of the National Park Service. "I am absolutely convinced he thinks that he is doing the right thing. You can do things by the spirit or by the letter of the law. You can have creative and facilitative management or you can have repressive and negative management. I think that Mr. Finley represents the latter management style," says Henninger. "There are people whose whole lives are wrapped up in hating the Park Service. I'm not one of those people. But I do not believe that Mr. Finley's style of management is conducive to the public charge that the National Park Service has been given. …

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