Former Interior Secretaries Excoriate Plan to Privatize Park Service

“Radical,” “reckless,” “hellbent” — those were some of the words Bruce Babbitt and Stewart Udall used to describe the Bush administration’s plan to privatize much of the National Park Service. Prior to this week, the two former secretaries of the Interior Department — both of them Arizona Democrats — chose to bite their tongues rather than criticize the White House, but the privatization plan was, they said, the last straw. Under the plan, 70 percent of full-time park service jobs, including rangers, scientists, and museum curators, could be replaced by private-sector workers. The administration claims privatization would be more economical, but critics say the replacement workers would be paid less, receive inferior benefits, and would lack the expertise, professionalism, and dedication of career park service employees. Now that they have broken their long silence, Babbitt and Udall apparently feel free to lambaste the White House’s environmental record: “This administration is so indifferent to the values of conservation agencies. I’m appalled,” said Udall.