The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been implicated in the latest in a series of WikiLeaks scandals.
Late last night, whistleblower and WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, published more than 1200 pages of incriminating and embarrassing emails, memos, strategic plans and other classified documents obtained from several high level GSMNP management officials. The documents were purportedly stolen by members of Assange’s organization when they hacked into the GSMNP website last November.
The leaked documents show an array of schemes and plans that would raise funds for the national park in lieu of its ability to collect entrance fees. When asked in a news conference this morning about the leaks, Jon Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service, stated that the Great Smoky Mountains management had basically “gone rogue” over the last year.
Some of the bizarre plans include allowing park-wide, year-round hunting of wild hogs, turning the Appalachian Clubhouse in Elkmont into a casino, and actually completing the “Road to Nowhere”. The so-called “Road to Somewhere” project includes a plan to build a non-denominational church near the cemeteries that were abandoned when Fontana Lake was created. Inexplicably, the church / community center was to be built by Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam that’s also responsible for building the mosque near the World Trade Center site.
However, the most ambitious plan to raise funds for the Smokies involves the most popular section of the park. In order to solve the on-going auto traffic congestion problem in Cades Cove, and to raise an estimated $50 Million in revenues per year, GSMNP managers were planning to launch a venture in 2012 that would create a water park, a petting zoo, a 300-foot high viewing platform, and a dueling piano bar featuring Senator Lamar Alexander - along the Hyatt Lane corridor in the heart of Cades Cove.
Park Spokesmen Bob Miller stated in a leaked email that the new venue would likely dissuade people from driving the Cades Cove Loop Road, and, additionally, the revenue generated from the project would off-set the lost sense of wilderness from the development. He also acknowledged that noise from the new venture would likely scare most wildlife away from Cades Cove, but “visitors will now have a petting zoo that will provide them with even better photographic opportunities than they had in the past”.
Perhaps the most damaging leak is the revelation that, as a result of a federal sting operation, park officials were caught selling black bears to travelling circus acts in Eastern Europe. Most people familiar with the Smokies are probably well aware that aggressive bears have been a problem over the last two years. Assange revealed that in order to deal with nuisance bears and over-population issues, park officials, last year, secretly began selling more than 75 bears to circus trainers at more than $15,000 per bear. Unbeknownst to backpackers, park biologists poured bacon grease in and around many of the backcountry shelters in order to lure bears into traps at night, at which point they were shot with tranquilizers, hauled down the mountain, driven to McGhee Tyson Airport, and then flown in private jets to various locations in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria where the bears were sold. The scheme began to unravel last October when an enterprising TSA agent, during a routine pat-down, finally realized the bears weren’t stuffed animals.
The WikiLeaks memo indicates that the scheme ultimately resulted in the resignation of the top GSMNP wildlife biologist this past December.
GSMNP Superintendent, Dale Ditmanson, could not be immediately reached for comment on the Smoky Leaks.