The Bureau That Cried Wolf
A Funston Fable
Once upon a time, there was a big bureaucracy that was in the habit of doing just whatever it felt like. The big bureaucracy didn't like having to tell anybody, even the people who loved to come visit it all the time, what it was going to do. But even the big bureaucracy had to sometimes appear to follow the law, so from time to time when its actions were hard to explain, it began to yell at everyone who would listen, "Emergency!" At first, everyone was very careful to heed these warnings of the big bureaucracy, even when its actions didn't seem to make sense. Surely, they reasoned, in an Emergency! everyone ought to listen to the warning and do exactly as they were told. But, as time went on, there kept being more and more Emergencies! One time, a road with just a teensy-weensy spot that needed to be fixed, was ripped out of the ground from one end to the other! Nobody knew why this happened, and it was said that the road was going to be closed for ever and ever. The people who loved to come visit knew that road, and they could not see any kind of Emergency! about it or why it should be torn out and closed. They began to talk amongst themselves, and even began thinking for themselves based on things they saw with their own eyes! "Sometimes when the big bureaucracy shouts out, 'Emergency!', it's just saying that; it doesn't really mean it!," said one of the visitors. Another replied, "It can't be bothered to explain itself all the time, it's a big bureaucracy!" Every year in the springtime, a colony of bank swallows would fly thousands of miles north to have their babies at the place where the people loved to visit. Even though everyone knew this was going to happen in the springtime, some people whispered that the big bureaucracy was going to shout, "Emergency!" when the swallows arrived. Then it would be able to keep all the people far, far away from the swallows who came back every year to where the people also came to visit. After a while, nobody even paid any attention when they heard someone shouting, "Emergency!" That was a very bad thing, because once in a very long while, at the place where the people and the birds loved to come visit, a very real and scary emergency would indeed happen. The people should have listened to the big bureaucracy at those rare times, and been very careful to do do as they were told. But it was too late. By that time, nobody would even turn around when they heard the word, "Emergency!"
by Michael B. Goldstein
[ from Monday May 8, 2000 ]
The "seasonal closure area" is to the left. It was closed by emergency order of the National Park Service on April 12, 2000 at 9:00 a.m., allegedly due to the return of the bank swallows. However, the birds aren't nesting anywhere near even the distant cliffs of the seasonal area. The signs announcing this closure do not cite the authority or regulation authorizing the closure, and cite the bank swallow as an "endangered species", when it is in fact a California state-threatened one.
[ from Thursday, May 11, 2000 ]
EDITORIAL: The Golden Gate Audubon Society's remedy reply brief, below, seems at pains to retract any implication from earlier statements that a fence along the cliffs would be acceptable. And, although it does not claim that there is any nesting activity along the seasonal closure cliffs now, it states that this could occur until mid-May. But when's mid-May... within the next week ! It seems unlikely by now that burrows will appear beneath the seasonal closure area, making its closure on an emergency basis without publication or comment questionable, perhaps even "arbitrary and capricious."
Yet, in a telling section, the brief states: "At any future hearing challenging the emergency closure, plaintiffs would have to challenge the expert opinion of the Park Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, and intervenor's [Audubon's] experts." The implication and threat is that, regardless of whether there is any nesting activity in the seasonal area, experts' support for the "emergency" closure has already been lined up. This is reminiscent of the e-mail from last October in which a Park Service employee wrote a Fish and Game expert, trying to specify the wording of what the expert should say in his report: that the decline in the bank swallows was due to "recreational impacts."
The simple observation that there don't seem to be nesting bank swallows in the seasonal area (from the dogwalkers' remedy brief) brought about a howl of protest from both the government and Audubon in their replies: "irrelevant, incompetent, speculative, and should be stricken," said the government, while Audubon hurled charges such as, "presumptuous", "irresponsible", "bold", and "hubris"! Perhaps they are speaking of only procedural issues, but it does seem they doth protest too much the fact that non-experts can readily see that there isn't, there wasn't, and in the next week there likely ain't gonna be the need for the emergency closure which U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup on April 14th declared "a complete end-run around this lawsuit."
- Michael B. Goldstein, Editor