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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  • 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 – Chapter One – Orthodox Marxism and Natural Science

    • If one can overlook his company’s flaws, and in this case I can, the important point is that Zuckerberg went to Glacier to bring attention to climate change. Zinke’s DOI went overboard to censor that message.

      And you lost me with the Soviet quote. Climate change is Marxist propaganda?

      As far as Zuckerberg being a “national embarrassment,” our president and congressional leadership certainly top that poll.

      • Hello Pete, maybe I can explain this. This Glacier Park news event is so utterly representative of the propaganda fest in our ongoing Climate Change Chernobyl. Please pardon the meandering sentences.

        I’ll stand by my remarks about Zuckerberg. He maintains a huge platform, with seemingly good intentions, though it isn’t clear how many users pay any attention to him (Twitter is not a reliable source). The Facebook experiment in news curation was a colossal failure. His ‘listening tour’ was a proto-political maneuver. Why visit “all fifty states?” Why not interesting landscapes, populations, cities? (See Techcrunch.com; Zuckerberg-challenge)

        His ambition is managing the global public soapbox of Facebook and “giving everyone a voice.” In my universe ISIS doesn’t get a voice. Their leaders are criminally insane. Zuckerberg and Google et al have been (willfully?) oblivious to the grotesque harm their apps have enabled (Don’t be evil!) and will continue to enable. National security has been appealing to Silicon Valley for tech help for a long time. How many dollars are we talking? Can we sell you a subscription with endless upgrades without which your software will fail? I have puzzled over whether Zuckerberg might be an embryonic fraud. Veneer. Ultimately he is not telegenic enough to be president. Fox will eat him.

        It seems feasible that a successful young businessman swimming in money and deluded about his own intelligence might be convinced by his whisperers to ‘lean in’ to the prospect of high level public leadership. Zuckerberg gained his wealth because he is smart, his money attracted brilliant employees and his software emerged in the right place at the right time. He’s no Steve Jobs, Gates or Elon; not even an engineer. But gee since he’s an internet media whiz who amassed billions (of dollars and lawyers) surely he would be a righteous politician in a Federal leadership position . . . From another angle, should a clever computer programmer who likes to hear himself talk be celebrated by cable news producers as an entertaining prospect for a national government position?

        About Dan Fagre. Montana is fortunate to have a scientist who does empirical climate fieldwork in the region, which is no small thing, and who can show us the measurements and speed of the warming effects in plain site. After spring snowmelt each year the glaciers are the only source of water in the mountain streams – think about what that means for soil and vegetation moisture and in turn, fire season. Dr. Fagre had the foresight decades ago to notice and measure the rapid retreat of the glaciers, beginning with the low tech tool of file cabinets filled with historical, aerial and ground-level photographs. Many weren’t even in color. During his tenure in Glacier the tech phenomena of geographic information systems, global positioning and satellite imagery exploded and humans can now see and think about geophysical global systems on vastly different scales. How fortunate were those who were in universities during those years! And all the academic subfields that sprouted are still sprouting more. There are more top climate scientists in the Rockies than people realize. Partly because the large native ecosystems provide the best baseline for measurements at scales from tiny pixels at meadow edges to images of the circumpolar jet stream and the disappearing Greenland ice sheet.

        This publicity has me a bit concerned about Fagre’s position as a top scientist in the Dept of Interior, under the notorious Secretary Zinke. But it is Fagre’s global credentials, the caliber of his work, and his high profile in the general public that will keep his position secure. People will notice if he is suddenly transferred to a remote desk job in the deep reaches of the NORAD budget office. Sure Fagre would probably have been interested to meet Zuckerberg during his excellent alpine adventure, but neither needs the publicity and the secret of global warming is already out.

        About the quote: When I cited the source of the quote I hesitated to include the title of the book chapter because it contained the word “Marxism.” I don’t know beans about Marxism and it confused the matter of the quote itself, which I found so apropos to these times, despite its date (1896!) That’s all – I was looking for insight into the Soviet censorship and oppression of scientists who dared to disagree with the State. The quote was about the politicization of apolitical, empirical, scientific discovery and prediction: for example climate change.

        The 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.” Rudolf Stammler; German philosopher of law; 1856-1938

        Well that was a ramble. Thank you for you work here Pete. I’m a fan.

        • I appreciate the clarification, Kate, especially on the quote. I thought that might be what you were getting at — the censorship of scientific evidence by the state — but I wasn’t sure.

          I have some issues with Zuckerberg, too. I took a more simplistic view of the event. It was the pettiness of Trump, Zinke and the DOI in dealing with Zuckerberg’s visit to the park. They made it a bigger story than it appeared to be. I’m in favor of anything that gets under their skin.

          Also, good info from you on Don Fagre. Thanks.

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