Dan Snyder Killed Some Trees, And A Park Ranger Paid The Price

Tim Murphy has a great story at Washington Monthly that shows, yet again, that you're justified in holding every idea you have about just what a rotten human being Dan Snyder is. It's a story about trees, egregious abuses of government power, and how easy it is for regular people to have their lives ruined for not heeding the whims of disgusting rich people.

You definitely need to read the whole thing, but here's the gist: Dan Snyder couldn't see the Potomac river from his gigantic mansion because some trees were in his way. Dan Snyder, being a horrible rich person, decided that he was going to get those 140 trees cut down, despite the fact that they were on national parks property and despite the fact that he had no justifiable reason other than "I am a rich asshole who wants to stare at a river while living in my rich asshole house" for wanting them cut down. Snyder tried to offer a $25,000 "cash contribution" to the park in return for a permit to clear the trees, but he was rebuffed. Luckily for Dan Snyder, he had government connections to exploit:

That June, [National Parks Service special assistant] P. Daneil Smith and his NPS colleagues, including the C&O Canal's new interim superintendent, Kevin Brandt, met with Snyder and his attorney at the mansion. There, they sketched out the details of a possible deal.

They agreed to grant Snyder a special use permit to clear 200 feet of trees on the slope behind his house, on the condition that he replace them with 600 native saplings. No one, however, had sought the permission of Montgomery County, Maryland, which had joint custody of the C&O Canal land. Nor had anyone commissioned an environmental assessment, as required by law. And they had ignored the recommendation of the park's horticulture specialists, who warned that clear-cutting even exotic plants would have adverse affects effects on the ecosystem. Snyder got to work immediately.

Rich guys getting favors is nothing new, but this story goes from an example of run-of-the-mill backdoor dealing to really gross when a park ranger named Robert Danno gets involved. After expressing some concerns about Snyder's tree-clearing to his superiors, he suddenly found himself getting reassigned to a desk job and facing bullshit disciplinary charges which were eventually dismissed. Danno's bosses were told to return him to his old job.

But Danno wasn't returned to his post, and was instead re-assigned to a job processing parking permits two hours away from his house. So Danno filed an official whistleblower complaint with the Office of the Inspector General, which condemned the NPS' decision to allow the tree-cutting after reviewing Danno's allegations. Danno paid for that, too:

In August of 2007, while Danno was in Colorado Springs for his son's first day at the Air Force Academy, his West Virginia farm was raided by U.S. Marshals. He flew home, only to find out that the feds had issued a warrant for his arrest and had classified him as a threat to the public, and perhaps himself. Danno spent a night drinking alone on his boat in the Potomac, and in the morning sped upstream to the C&O Canal boat launch, where he was arrested by an NPS SWAT team and charged with theft of federal property.

The tab: $5,408.76 in collectible badges, emergency medical kits, a drill, and various other tools. According to the NPS, Danno had sweet-talked a desk employee at the park's regional headquarters into offering him access to the room where she stored a collection of historic badges from various national park sites and missions—and then made off with them. According to Danno—and, more to the point, his extensive paper trail and line of witnesses—those badges had either been earned or gifted. The National Park Service pressed the issue, securing an indictment in May of 2008, and then taking the case to the federal court, where, as Danno was made well aware, the NPS almost never loses. But the evidence was overwhelmingly in Danno's favor; after his supervisor revealed that he had transported Danno's "stolen" property to his home in his own car, the jury needed just a few minutes to acquit Danno in February of 2009.

That following winter, Danno had the same charges of theft brought against him by the NPS in an internal complaint. Two years later, he was finally reinstated as a concessions manager at a different park. All because Dan Snyder decided he didn't like having to look at some stupid trees.

[Washington Monthly]