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Government and People
|January 16, 2003
Mr. Joe Cook
Re: Proposed Land Exchange Agreement Environmental Assessment (Casey Mansion Foundation) on “Whitehaven Tract National Park Land”
Dear Mr. Cook:
On behalf of Defenders of Wildlife’s (“Defenders”) approximately one-million members and supporters, including many in the District of Columbia (including me and my family), I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the aforementioned Environmental Assessment (“EA” or “Casey Mansion EA”), completed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. §§4321 - 4345. We oppose the transfer as described in the present EA.
As a threshold matter, it is not at all clear what the public is gaining from the proposed land exchange. The Department of Interior appears to be giving up well-established national park land that is currently in good use with potential park land that possesses many question marks. We are gravely concerned that the National Park Service has placed the cart before the horse by reaching an “Agreement to Exchange Real Property” before any NEPA analysis was initiated and before even the scoping session in August 2002. See generally 40 C.F.R. §1501.1-2.
Significantly, “Amendment Number 1" to the Agreement makes a hugely telling and legally problematic admission: “the National Park Service no longer wishes to retain ownership to that parcel of land” known as the Whitehaven NPS Land (in Lot 804). EA at 5.5 (p.1). When was this decision made and who made it? Certainly the public, through NEPA, was not involved in that decision, which was signed by the Park Service before the EA was even released to the public. “(T)he comprehensive ‘hard look’ mandated by Congress and required by statute must be timely, and it must be taken objectively and in good faith, not as an exercise in form over substance, and not as subterfuge designed to rationalize a decision already made.” Metcalf v. Daley, 214 F.3d 1135, 1142 (9th Cir. 2000). If the NPS has made such a premature decision, such action runs counter not only to NEPA (and several other environmental laws), but also to other federal statutes such as the Administrative Procedure Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
On the one hand, we have a highly valuable four-acre parcel of National Park land that is not needed for the proposed D.C. mayor’s mansion (which already possesses over sixteen acres on the present site) and that would, in fact, enhance the mayor’s mansion if kept as the public’s National Park land. The property in question is, inter alia: a popular hiking trail for area residents; a nesting and feeding spot for federally protected migratory birds, including the potential of bald eagles; a biodiversity connector to Glover-Archbold National Park and the rest of the Rock Creek National Park system; important land to native Americans, valuable open and quiet space in a growing urban area, and; possibly the site of unique historic or cultural resources. When she was alive, noted environmentalist Rachel Carson was known to hike and birdwatch on the land in question. See Attachment A (Life magazine from October 12, 1962).
On the other hand, we have two small waterfront properties in Georgetown that are assured no public access if acquired by NPS and that are only vaguely related to a “Georgetown Waterfront Park” plan, which apparently has never undergone the public National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process (or, if it was subject to NEPA, that documentation is not cited or discussed in the present EA). See, e.g., 40 C.F.R. §1508.28 (Tiering). This Casey Mansion EA, or similar recent document, simply does not explain how either the Park Service or the public gain from acquiring these properties, and why those properties could not be acquired without sacrificing excellent existing Park land.
National Park Service Organic Law
As you know, the legal “fundamental purpose” of the National Park system “is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife herein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” 16 U.S.C. §1. The Park Service simply has not analyzed the Whitehaven park land in question in the manner required by Park Service organic law. We are not at all convinced that the NPS has complied with, or will be able to comply with, the requirements for land transfers contained in 16 U.S.C. §460l-22(b).
In its best light, the Casey Mansion EA utterly fails to explain how giving away four acres of prime National Park land will advance these purposes, and plainly ignores how acquisition of the Georgetown Properties would advance such purposes. See, e.g., EA at 1-1, 1-7. At the very least, a draft Environmental Impact Statement with true alternatives and analysis would help elucidate the benefits of the highly controversial proposed land transfer in question. One of the main purposes of an EA such as the one at issue is to determine whether an EIS is necessary. 40 C.F.R. §1508.9(a)(1).
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is our national charter for protection of the environment, and its well-established procedures ensure that accurate environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before actions are taken. 42 U.S.C. §4331; 40 C.F.R. §1500.1. “NEPA has twin aims.” First, it places upon agencies the obligation to consider every significant aspect of the environmental impact of a proposed action. Second, it ensures that agencies will inform the public that they have indeed thoroughly considered environmental concerns in the decision-making process. Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 462 U.S. 87, 97 (1983).
NEPA requires federal agencies to take a “hard look” at the environmental consequences of their actions as well as reasonable alternatives to them. Kleppe v. Sierra Club, 427 U.S. 390, 410, fn. 21 (1976), citing Natural Resources Defense Council v. Morton, 458 F.2d 827, 837 (D.C. Cir. 1972). The “hard look” doctrine applies to EAs. Sierra Club v. United States Dep’t of Transp., 753 F.2d 120, 127 (D.C. Cir. 1985) (describing criteria for reviewing an agency’s decision to forgo preparation of an EIS: “ . . . once the agency has identified the problem it must have taken a “hard look” at the problem in preparing the EA.”). In this context, the NPS must take the “hard look” consistent with its overarching legal obligations to protect existing park land within the present park system. See, e.g., Attachment B, Article and Fact Sheet prepared by Kent Slowinski, Foxhall Community Citizen’s Association (discussing several viable alternatives).
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) NEPA regulations apply to all federal agencies. 40 C.F.R. §1507.1 (“All agencies of the Federal Government shall comply with these regulations”). “CEQ’s interpretation of NEPA is entitled to substantial deference.” Andrus v. Sierra Club, 442 U.S. 347, 351 (1979). “NEPA’s purpose is . . . to foster excellent action.” 40 C.F.R. §1500.1(b). NEPA contains “action-forcing” provisions to make sure federal agencies act according to the letter and spirit of the Act.” 40 C.F.R. §1500.1(a). Department of Interior NEPA procedures (Departmental Manual, Part 516) largely track the CEQ regulations, noting the Department’s “leadership in protecting and enhancing those aspects of the quality of the Nation’s environment,” and the requirement to “consult, coordinate and cooperate” with relevant agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Id. at 1.2, 1.5.
Environmental information used in making NEPA decisions “must be of high quality. Accurate scientific analysis, expert agency comments, and public scrutiny are essential to implementing NEPA.” 40 C.F.R. §1500.1(b). NEPA mandates scientific and professional integrity, 40 C.F.R. §1502.24, and honesty with regard to incomplete or unavailable information. 40 C.F.R. §1502.22. “The NEPA process is intended to help public officials make decisions that are based on understanding of environmental consequences. . .” 40 C.F.R. §1500.1(c). Agencies “shall utilize a systematic, interdisciplinary approach which will insure the integrated use of the natural and social sciences and the environmental design arts in planning and in decisionmaking which may have an impact on man’s environment.” 42 U.S.C. §4332(2)(A). Agencies “shall identify and develop methods and procedures . . . which will insure that presently unquantified environmental amenities and values may be given appropriate consideration in decisionmaking along with economic and technical considerations.” 42 U.S.C. §4332(2)(B). Agencies “shall initiate and utilize ecological information in the planning and development of resource-oriented projects.” 42 U.S.C. §4332(2)(H).
NEPA specifically requires a single EIS when closely related actions are to be taken in concert with each other. “Proposals or parts of proposals which are related to each other closely enough to be, in effect, a single course of action shall be evaluated in a single impact statement.” 40 C.F.R. §1502.4(a). “Significance cannot be avoided by . . . breaking it down into small component parts.” 40 C.F.R. §1508.27(b)(7). The scope of a NEPA document must include “[c]onnected actions, which means that they are closely related and therefore should be discussed in the same impact statement. Actions are connected if they. . . are interdependent parts of a larger action and depend on the larger action for their justification.” 40 C.F.R. §1508.25(a)(1), a(1)(iii).
A federal agency such as the Park Service should analyze actions involving common timing or geography in the same impact statement “when the best way to assess adequately the combined impacts of similar actions or reasonable alternatives to such actions is to treat them in a single impact statement.” 40 C.F.R. §1508.25(a)(3). See also Fund for Animals v. Clark, 27 F. Supp. 2d 8, 13 (D.D.C. 1998) (“[A]n agency may not segment actions to unreasonably restrict the scope of the environmental review process”) (declaring an EA for bison management plan inadequate because it failed to consider environmental impact of existing elk and bison feeding programs in same geographic area). Similarly, cumulative impacts are those that result from “the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions. . . . (and) can result from individually minor but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time.” 40 C.F.R. §1508.7. An agency should evaluate in the same EIS “[c]umulative actions, which when viewed with other proposed actions have cumulatively significant impacts.” 40 C.F.R. §1508.25(a)(3).
Public scrutiny and early participation is essential to implementing NEPA. “Agencies shall make diligent efforts to involve the public in preparing and implementing their NEPA procedures.” 40 C.F.R. §1506.6(a). “Agencies shall provide public notice of NEPA-related hearings. . . and the availability of environmental documents so as to inform those persons and agencies who may be interested or affected.” 40 C.F.R. §1506.6(b). “In all cases the agency shall mail notice to those who have requested it on an individual action.” 40 C.F.R. §1506.6(b)(1). “In the case of an action with effects of national concern notice shall include publication in the Federal Register and notice by mail to national organizations reasonably expected to be interested in the matter . . . .” 40 C.F.R. §1506.6(b)(2). We believe that future announcements about the Casey Mansion EA should be made in the Federal Register, and Defenders (as well as other national groups such as the Sierra Club and National Parks and Conservation Association) should receive updates via the mail. I heard about this project myself only through a telephone call by a local leader in late Autumn 2002. Despite a small notice in the Northwest Current, I do not believe the scoping process for this EA in the summer of 2002 was publicized adequately at all.
The purpose behind NEPA’s review processes is not “to rationalize or justify decisions already made” or to take action “that limit[s] the choice of reasonable alternatives.” 40 C.F.R. §§1502.5, 1506.1(a). “The phrase ‘range of alternatives’ refers to the alternatives discussed in environmental documents. It includes all reasonable alternatives, which must be rigorously explored and objectively evaluated.” 46 Fed. Reg. 18026 (1981)(Answer to Question 1) (emphasis added). “[C]onsideration of alternatives is critical to the goals of NEPA even where a proposed action does not trigger the EIS process.” Bob Marshall Alliance v. Hodel, 852 F.2d 1223, 1228-29( 9th Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1066 (1989). Consideration of alternatives should be “more than an excuse in frivolous boilerplate.” Vermont Yankee Power Corp. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 435 U.S. 519, 551 (1978). Here, the alternatives offered in the EA are very narrow, and ignore numerous good ideas regarding, inter alia: a) the placement of roads and buildings on or near the site; b) the desirability and feasibility of binding covenants regarding conservation and public use, if necessary; and c) the options for placing the mayor’s mansion elsewhere in the District of Columbia.
NEPA requires an EIS for any “major federal action” “significantly” “affecting” the quality of the “human environment” 42 U.S.C. §4332(2)(C). There is no single test to determine whether an EIS is necessary. See, e.g., Sierra Club v. Peterson, 717 F2d 1409, 1413 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (four-part test in determining whether agency should prepare an EIS). “Effects may also include those resulting from actions which may have both beneficial and detrimental effects, even if on balance the agency believes that the effect will be beneficial.” 40 C.F.R. §1508.8(b). Federal agencies must “supply a convincing statement of reasons to explain why potential effects are insignificant” and should prepare an EIS when an action ‘may have’ significant environmental effects.” Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project at 1211-12(emphasis added). See also 40 C.F.R. 1508.27 (discussion of the legal term “significantly” in terms of both “context” and “intensity”). Many of the factors identified by both the CEQ regulations and Interior’s own guidelines indicate that an EIS should here be prepared.
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
One of the more glaring omissions in the EA is an analysis of the impact of any land transfer upon migratory birds protected by international treaties and federal law. As expressly stated in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA): “Unless and except as permitted by regulations made as hereinafter provided in this subchapter, it shall be unlawful at any time, by any means or in any manner, to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture, or kill ... any migratory bird, any part, nest, or egg of any such bird ...” 16 U.S.C. §703. These prohibitions expressly apply to federal agencies such as the Park Service. Humane Society of the U.S. v. Glickman, 217 F.3d 882 (D.C. Cir. 2000). Although U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations in 50 C.F.R. Parts 13 and 21 provide for permits under the MBTA, the Park Service nonetheless did not consult with the FWS on any aspect of this proposed project. Based on the information provided to the public, the Park Service has not yet even sought a migratory bird take permit, which we have good reason to believe would not be granted in this instance. See also Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, 16 U.S.C. §§661 et seq.
The bird species observed on the Whitehaven Tract National Park Land during the October 26-28, 2002 field survey are listed in Appendix B of the EA, on page 17 of the consultant’s biological resources inventory report. This list contains a number of protected migratory birds under the MBTA. See 50 C.F.R. §10.13 (List of Migratory Birds). In addition, the EA admits that at least two of the sited bird species – the Dark-eyed junco and Red-breasted nuthatch – are “sensitive” species, yet proposes no protective action for these species because they are allegedly “considered sensitive or rare only during breeding season.” No scientific citation is given for this assertion, nor is it explained how destroying nesting or feeding habitat for the birds will help their breeding or their rarity. The EA also does not discuss the significant observance of Carolina chickadees on the site given how that species (and others) are so recently hard hit by the West Nile virus. See, e.g., Smithsonian Environmental Research Center website at www.serc.si.edu; The Breeding Bird Survey, at www.mbr.nbs.gov/bbs/bbs.html.
During the month of December 2002, I personally walked and observed the four-acre parcel many times, looking for birds and other wildlife species. (I am an avid birder and an admitted “bird nerd”). Not only did I observe a fox den that was not noted in the EA, but a I also saw (and heard) at least five protected bird species not on the consultants’ list: White-throated sparrow, Carolina wren, Tufted titmouse, Downy woodpecker, and Red-bellied woodpecker. I previously have seen bald eagles in this area as well, raising compliance issues not only under the MBTA, but the Endangered Species Act and Bald Eagle Protection Act as well. I have also previously seen the sensitive Winter wren species in this area. Wood ducks have also been seen on the site. See, e.g., Shirley Briggs, Mixed Upland Broadleaf Forest (Winter Bird Population Study), 67 Journal of Field Ornithology 4 at 7-8 (36 year field study at Glover-Archbold Park that observed many bird species not in EA, including Screech owl, Red-shouldered hawk, American goldfinch and others)(Attachment C).
Furthermore, I was frankly astonished that the Park Service would rely upon just several days of field work to base its final opinions regarding bird conservation on this national park land. Such surveys should be conducted over the course of at least one year (most peer-review scientific studies require multiple years of observation) so that all seasons (especially spring and summer) are covered. It is disconcerting that the Park Service did not even attempt to access available bird observation data from either professional journals or entities such as the D.C. Audubon Chapter, Audubon Naturalist Society, or the Rachel Carson Council, each of which possess members who have long-standing bird data in this area; I am presently trying to track down this data, which we are told does exist. For example, one prominent birder, Mary D’Imperio has been traveling over the past month and has not been available to provide information reportedly in her possession. Finally, none of the preparers of the EA (at 5.3) appear to have any meaningful ornithological expertise or experience.
The loss of even four acres of good bird habitat in exchange for land that is mediocre wildlife habitat at best, EA at 3-5, is cause of great concern. The cumulative impacts of “losing four acres here” and “losing four acres there” has resulted in a national bird conservation crisis that this proposed action perpetuates and that the MBTA seeks to avoid. See, e.g., David King and John Rappole, Population Trends for Migrant Birds in North America (in press)(noting that “so many different kinds of studies report declines in migrant bird populations ... is evidence that declines are real.”)(on file with author, including extensive bibliography); Scott Robinson, The Case of the Missing Songbirds, Consequences (Volume 3, Number 1, 1997) (Attachment D). See also Executive Order, Responsibilities of Federal Agencies to Protect Migratory Birds (January 11, 2001).
Native Plants, Exotic Plants, and Wetlands
Unfortunately, the problems that plague the survey and analysis for migratory birds in the EA similarly afflict the discussion of native vegetation, exotic vegetation, and wetlands habitat on the Whitehaven park land. For starters, we disagree with the EA’s assertion, on page 14 of the consultant’s appendix, that the property “provides little value as a biological connector due to its location,” as well as the related assertions on page 4-8 and 4-9 that the Park Service must radically or drastically reduce the population of invasive exotic plant species on the unprotected area of the Whitehaven park land. A color-coded map of the overall area in D.C., Attachment E, demonstrates the important biodiversity corridor provided by the Whitehaven park land. While we don’t disagree that some invasive plant species treatment is necessary, many of the shrubs and vines on the unprotected area of the Whitehaven park land provide both nests and food to protected migratory birds. We believe the Whitehaven Tract National Park Land is a very valuable urban green corridor for birds specifically and biodiversity in general. See generally Marble Mountain Audubon Society v. Rice, 914 F.2d 179 (9th Cir. 1990)(NEPA document did not adequately address effect of action upon biological corridor).
But perhaps the most damning evidence against the plant and habitat discussion in the EA is provided by the brief report by Dr. John Fay, a plant specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who toured the property on his own time last month. Dr. Fay noticed at least one plant species – Verbesina alternifolia – that was not on the EA’s plant list despite its plain obviousness out of season. Several other plant species were suspected to be on the property, but not listed, and several other plant species (e.g., Aralia racemosa) are potentially significant because they are usually only found in “older growth” forests. See generally Attachment F (Letters from Fay, and his qualifications).
In addition to obtaining more expertise of birds and plants, it is our strong opinion that the Park Service must gain expert hydrological opinion on the land in question. A stream several feet in width cuts through a potentially large swath of wetlands, which we do not have comfort are completely protected by the current proposal. See, e.g., Neal Fitzpatrick, Every Stream Counts if the Goal is Clean Water, Audubon Naturalist (December 2002/January 2003) at 3 (Attachment G); see also Eric Freyfogle, The New Agrarianism: Land, Culture and the Community of Life, 33 Environmental Law Reporter 10023-10032 (2003). Further, while we acknowledge the existence of some exotic plant species on the property, this fact must be placed in proper perspective. First, even iconic and healthy national parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite have some degree of exotic wildlife. Second, not all exotic plant life is invasive or harmful, and indeed several protected species of bird were found either nesting or feeding off such plants this past December. Third, we do not accept that a private landowner would necessarily manage the exotic species better than the NPS.
Native American Issues
Yet another problem with the EA is the absence of any analysis regarding the Department of Interior’s well-acknowledged trust responsibilities to native Americans. The U.S. Supreme Court and Congress have confirmed this trust obligation of the Department repeatedly. See, e.g., Jack Trope and Dean Suagee, Tribal Sacred Places and American Values, Natural Resources and Environment at 102-104 (ABA, Fall 2002). At the very least, you should have conferred with the American Indian Society of Washington, D.C., which we understand views this property favorably for several reasons. This entity, which represents the Indians in the metropolitan D.C. area, meets in February and March of this year. See www.aisdc.org. One interest of native peoples in this park land is the existence of albino deer, which Indians believe represent the great diversity bestowed by our creator. In addition, your examination of value under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), 16 U.S.C. §470(f), is lacking. We are not assured by the EA that this property is not of religious or cultural importance to tribal leaders, nor are we confidant that the park land has been examined for other historic relics covered by the NHPA.
Clean Air/Noise/Transportation Issues
While more exhaustively discussed by other commenters, significant clean air and related transportation issues are raised by plans to build two roads into the potential mayoral property, as well as the reasonable future impacts of increased development in this area if the Whitehaven Park Land is traded away. These impacts are not adequately discussed in the EA. The cumulative impact of your preferred alternative is not considered in conjunction with other actions in the affected area along Foxhall, Whitehaven, and Reservoir Roads.
National Capital Planning Commission
The National Capital Planning Commission (“NCPC” or “Commission”) was created by Congress in 1952, and is the central federal agency in charge of overseeing planning and development activities in the National Capital region, including all of the District of Columbia, and is specifically charged with preserving “important natural features” in the region. 40 U.S.C. §8711(a); see also 40 U.S.C. §8701. Through its structure and procedures, the NCPC is designed to take into account the needs and desires of D.C. citizens and residents. The NCPC’s “Environmental Policies and Procedures” were last amended on October 21, 1982 and are found on the agency’s website. In sum, it is painfully clear to us that the Park Service did not adequately consult with the NCPC in developing the present proposal, contrary to NEPA and its regulations, as well as the NCPC’s own guidelines. See, e.g., 40 C.F.R. §1501.6 (Cooperating Agencies). In fact, the Commission itself may already be in violation of NEPA given its statutory duties and given the complete lack of NCPC involvement in the present EA.
Congress has mandated under the NCPC authorizing legislation that the Commission is “the central planning agency for federal activities in the National Capital region.” 40 U.S.C. §8722(a). “To ensure the comprehensive planning and orderly development of the National Capital,” every federal agency “shall advise and consult with the Commission as the agency prepares plans and programs in preliminary and successive stages that affect the plan and development of the National Capital.” 40 U.S.C. §8722(b). This mandatory consultative duty is echoed by the NCPC environmental guidelines, Guidelines at §§4, 7, which emphasize coordination “at the earliest possible point” and the “special effort” that should be made to implement NEPA properly in the National Capital area. Id. at §1.
These procedural flaws carry significant substantive weight in this instance. As the February 2001 NCPC Comprehensive Plan: Parks, Open Space and Natural Features Element makes abundantly clear, the national park land at issue is of great value: “The narrow threads of natural green areas throughout the District, like Whitehaven Parkway, Klingle Valley Parkway, Glover-Archibold Park, ... should be protected and maintained to provide green background and open space amenity for the residential areas of the city. These natural areas should be protected from border development that would adversely impact their natural resources and visual quality.” Id. at 23 (emphases added). Further, the “protection and preservation” of remaining “stream valley parks,” such as are contained in the Whitehaven Park Land, “should be given high priority.” Id. (emphasis added). Building setbacks, height controls, the donation of scenic easements, or the transfer of development rights “should be pursued to ensure protection” in these areas. Id. “Greenways are essential as corridors for the protection of wildlife and biodiversity. Efforts should be made to encourage the completion of greenways corridors and their connectivity with other existing or proposed corridors.” Id. at 25. See also Council on Environmental Quality, Incorporating Biodiversity Considerations Into Environmental Impact Analysis Under the National Environmental Policy Act (1993).
Nowhere in the public record, or in the EA, has the NCPC stated or otherwise implied that the Whitehaven Tract can be best protected by giving it away. If somehow, for argument’s sake, it was shown that the land transfer in question was a sound idea, there exists no discussion in the EA of binding covenants on public access or resource protection related to the present federal title. See Attachment H (Conditions placed on Casey Foundation proposal for Mayor’s mansion by City Council in 2001, before the Whitehaven Tract National Park Land transfer proposal). Our ideal scenario would be for the NPS to affirmatively develop a land plan that protects this important parcel of land, not one that trades it away for a whim.
There are other D.C. citizen-related issues that should be analyzed in the present EA or a future EIS. First, to our knowledge, not one publicly elected official in the District has come out in favor of this land transfer, and several (including Council Member Phil Mendelson, quoted in the January 8, 2003 The Washington Post at B3) have come out vociferously against it. Second, nowhere does this EA even remotely consider the opinions of local individual residents, local schools (private and public), and local environmental groups – the vast majority of whom have spoken against the proposed project, including at the poorly publicized scoping meeting in August of 2002 (the results of which are not disclosed in the EA). As far as I am aware, every affected citizen’s association and advisory neighborhood commission opposes your proposal. Third, the role of the Casey Foundation in pushing this proposal must be more transparently identified. For instance, we would find it unacceptable if this private entity, funded by real estate development money, is dictating terms involving national park land to one or both of the District government (and its mayoral committee) and the National Park Service – with no public oversight or involvement. While we appreciate the original gift by Mrs. Casey, that gift’s relationship to the Whitehaven Tract transfer must be much more transparent than it has been to date. See generally www.foxhall.org.
I should note in closing that I also write this letter in my personal capacity as a D.C. and Palisades resident. I live blocks away from this parkland, where I observe wildlife or simply catch a quiet moment away from the bustle of the city. My two children have accompanied me on walks in the affected park land, adventures they have deeply enjoyed. My children also attend the St. Patrick’s School, which is across the street from this park land, and which would greatly benefit – academically and spiritually – from access to this wonderful parcel of wild habitat.
Thus, I am forced to inform you that if the Park Service and the Department of Interior persist with the current proposal to give away valuable national park land in the nation’s capital, you will face the real threat of litigation in federal court. I have already been in contact with several groups, both local and national, that are interested in retaining me to represent them in this matter. We are all hopeful that it need not come to that.
I look forward to continued discussion and dialogue on this extremely important matter. Indeed, after you have read this letter, I would like to discuss several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) issues that might be avoided if we could arrange suitable times for me, as well as my present and potential clients, to review the administrative record held by the Department of Interior on this matter. Thank you in advance for your continued cooperation.
cc: Executive Director, NCPC (w/o attachments)
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