The Smithsonian and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Why is this stuff so hard? Why can’t we preserve the wilderness, what little of it we have left, while putting our efforts into improving efficiency and minimizing energy use through means like the CAFE standards? Here’s the latest apalling news from Steven Zeitchik of Publisher’s Weekly:


Seattle Publisher Says Smithsonian Yielded to Republicans on Alaska Book


Polar bears and porcupine caribou are not usually the stuff of
political controversy, but you’d never know it from a battle between
the Smithsonian and a small Washington State publisher that says the
foundation is acceding to Republican pressure in a new exhibit about
Alaska wildlife…



The Mountaineer Books, a Seattle-based nonprofit, says the Smithsonian is
reneging on its agreement to include the house’s book, Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge, and captions from it in an exhibit opening at the
group’s National Museum of Natural History Friday. The publisher is
asking that the book be restored to the exhibit and that the exhibit
be restored to a more prominent place in the institution.. It is also
denying the Smithsonian’s request to include an errata in the book
that negates the two references currently present there, saying the
Smithsonian had long ago made a commitment to be involved..


The photos of the famous Alaska preserve were taken by a photographer
named Subhankar Banerjee. Despite their apparent innocuousness, the
shots became politically sensitive when legislators opposing an Alaska
oil-drilling bill held up the title during a Congressional debate. The
publisher says it believes that the Smithsonian then came under
pressure from the administration that caused it to do an about-face,
and the publisher has enlisted Illinois senator Richard Durbin to
write a letter to the organization, in which he characterized the
Smithsonian as taking “hostile actions” toward Mountaineer, “raising
questions that warrant an explanation.”


In a letter from the Smithsonian to Mountaineer, the group says the
book’s references “may create the false impression that the
Smithsonian sponsors or endorses the book” and asks that this be
redressed The publisher says it has no intention of doing so. “They
want to distance themselves from the book,” says Mountaineers
publisher Helen Cherullo of the Smithsonian. “But as a public
institution, we think they have obligation to provide scientific
knowledge about this area now being debated. To not allow this
information to be available is a real problem.”

Am I the only one that finds this all a bit bizarre and illogical?

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