Zinke v. Gracie the Bark Ranger

Zuckerberg and Gracie

The back story is the U.S. Department of the Interior muzzling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Glacier National Park. Not even Gracie, the park’s Bark Ranger, escaped the pettiness of Sec. Ryan Zinke’s DOI. Gracie keeps mountain goats and bighorn sheep from getting too close to idiot tourists, but was considered canine non grata for the Zuckerberg tour.

Back in July, Zuckerberg toured Glacier to see how climate change was affecting the park’s famous glaciers. Park staff was giddy over the visit, hoping it would promote Glacier, bring attention to the shrinking ice fields and perhaps lead to some philanthropy from the planet’s fifth richest person.

Plans for the tour started in June and everything looked good until the knotheads at DOI, which oversees the National Park Service, got wind of it.

The Trump administration was far less keen on Zuckerberg — who has been increasingly vocal in his criticism of the president — and apparently balked at giving him the red-carpet treatment that national parks often roll out for lawmakers, potential donors and dignitaries.

“This seems like a lot of government resources to dedicate to a celebrity’s personal PR tour,” Interior press secretary Heather Swift wrote in an email to a Park Service spokesman three days before the scheduled tour.

Keep in mind that “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist” Zinke often touts growing up in Whitefish and having Glacier Park as his backyard playground. But he panders to the powers that be, and that includes reversing course on climate change and supporting Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords.

The administration’s micromanagement of Zuckerberg’s tour came as Trump officials de-emphasized climate issues, not just by withdrawing from the Paris agreement but by removing references to global warming from many federal websites and turning back regulations on U.S. carbon emissions. The president and several of his Cabinet secretaries have questioned the scientific consensus that global temperatures are rising because of human activity.

Not only was the DOI petty but just plain stupid. The park could have benefitted greatly from Zuckerberg’s generosity, especially as budget cuts loom for the Park Service. But the most telling of the DOI’s pathetic piddling are these two paragraphs:

Interior appointees even questioned why Gracie the Bark Ranger, the popular border collie who prevents bighorn sheep and mountain goats from getting too close to park visitors, was invited to tag along.


The Park Service was not allowed to post anything about the tour on its Facebook page or social media accounts.

Gracie made the cut but Park Superintendent Jeff Mow didn’t, nor did a U.S. Geological Survey specialist on climate change and other staffers. One of the best responses to this inanity came in the comments section:

As a retired USGS technical person, I am sickened by the attempts to politicize this venerable scientific body. That has happened before but never to this degree. 

The mission of the USGS is to tell the scientific truth about earth processes. For example, go look at the illustrations used by Trump et al on the flooding by Harvey. See all those dots showing flood conditions? All those dots are USGS gaging stations. They use these results to their advantage but ignore them when they conflict with their bogus message. Real data are not alternative facts. Neither is the retreat of glaciers in Montana an alternative fact – that’s REAL. 

Zinke is bringing back memories of Donald P. Hodel. His solution to ameliorating the damage from a depleted ozone layer was to advise citizens to wear sun glasses. You can’t spin facts. You can try, but, it won’t succeed in the long term. ‘Long term’ for this bunch needs to be measured in terms of the next 3 years. 2018 and 2020 can’t come soon enough. 




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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

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Thanks for what you do.


Zuckerberg is a national embarrassment. His vast following comprises people who confuse cash with brains. In past generations he would have been counted among those barons of industry who had the good fortune of being born with silver oil wells in their mouths. After seeing this article I poked around old literature about the Soviet censorship of science and came upon this quote: “It may, for example, be an appropriate and deadly stroke to comment, as Rudolf Stammler did in 1896, that astronomers do not form a political party to bring on a predicted eclipse.” From Soviet Suppression of Science… Read more »

Brenda Wahler

And just this past week, Zinke said, without apparent irony, “You go into Glacier, there’s trees everywhere,” …” as if that is the problem… http://mtpr.org/post/interior-secretary-calls-active-forest-management-check-wildfires

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