By Nikki Silverstein
Zero: Snarky name-calling, secret alliances and the use of private email accounts to conduct official government business. No, we’re not describing the recent presidential election. This is about how top dogs in the National Park Service (NPS) mishandled the public process that will soon result in severely restricting dog walking in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), cutting access by a whopping 90 percent. Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by Marin County Dog Owners Group and other local organizations expose a bias by the NPS to limit dogs in the GGNRA and highlight the underhanded methods used to influence the outcome of the dog management plan.
To publicize the inequity of the process, the dog and recreation advocate groups launched WoofieLeaks, a website that posts incriminating emails and planning documents, including an email from a GGRNA wildlife ecologist urging staff to leave out pertinent data that doesn’t jibe with the agency’s views on virtually eliminating dog walking in the GGNRA. Other gems include a senior GGNRA official directing staff to destroy damning emails and providing talking points to groups opposed to dog walking and helping them write op-ed pieces. “The deliberate destruction of public records, failing recollections, and the use of private emails by agency personnel reveal a fatally flawed, fundamentally unfair, and unlawful decision-making process,” said Chris Carr, the attorney handling the FOIA requests on behalf of local dog and recreation groups. We think the NPS and the GGNRA are in the doghouse now. That’s ruff.