by Gary Torres
Contrary to the belief of many people, most of my time at the BLM is spent trying to manage our natural resources and get something constructive done; a trust by the American public that I take very seriously.
Mostly, I have tried hard to keep it very simple using just two principles that guide my actions. The first is “productive harmony” that is, allow the land and it’s user to make the land productive and do it in a way that is in harmony with our environment.
The second is “multiple use and sustained yield” which allows our public lands to be used in many ways, such as responsible energy development, recreation, and grazing for the benefit of the American people and do this in a way that future generations will also still be able to use the land for hiking, hunting, grazing, jeeping, or just enjoying the back country.
So I was more than a little surprised when I picked up the phone one morning and it was the United States State Department.
Just like in the 1994 movie True Lies with Swhwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, my mission, if accepted, was to go to a foreign country and wreak havoc, which I am usually pretty good at. “Howdy folks. I am here to help, you can trust me, and I am from the government.”
Specifically, I was headed to Papua New Guinea to help them develop their natural resources using the American ideas of “productive harmony” and “multiple use and sustained yield” and help America secure a positive presence before China comes in and buys everything up and “helps” them out of all their natural resources and leaves nothing but a big hole in the ground.
I asked if got to carry a gun; they didn’t think it was a good idea.
There are interesting things going on in Papua New Guinea. From a natural resources point of view, they are sitting on a mountain of gold floating on an ocean of oil encased by a beautiful landscape that varies from sandy beaches to snow-capped mountains.
They are diverse people, speaking more than 800 languages. Eighty percent live in remote areas in isolated villages and work the land for their basic subsistence.
Their land produces palm oil, coffee, and liquefied natural gas but doesn’t have the infrastructure in place, such as roads and pipelines. You can’t drive from one coast to the other as there are no roads.
So after a 25-hour flight, I am in Papua New Guinea as part of the International Technology Assistance Program (ITAPs).
The first thing we do upon arriving is go through customs. The US Embassy provides us with driver, who doubles as our guard.
We are picked up at the airport and transported to our hotel, which is also surrounded by an eight foot high security fence with guards at every entrance. They slide the gate open and allow us in.
The country is rich in natural resources, but the poverty is extreme and although PNG is not on the “do not visit” list from the State Department, our security briefing chief assures us that we can go nowhere without our guard.
He emphasizes that most people that do get assaulted are not robbed at gun point, but rather by a machete-yielding native.
Over the course of three days, I appear to be like any other mild mannered bureaucrat and will give six lectures; but at night I am out there fighting for “truth, justice, and the American way.”
Somehow in my short stay, I was able to get my name in the national newspaper and was interviewed for the evening news.
And my too kind and loving wife thinks that I am just another slow moving federal paper pusher.
There will probably be a movie out soon, True Lies II. Brad Pitt or Antonio Banderas should play me, they seem like the closest resemblance; right?