No one in the cadre of national environmental activists seemed much surprised to learn last week that Vice President Dick Cheney is orchestrating the rollback in federal protections that marks the Bush administration's stewardship of America's natural resources.
Most stunning about The Washington Post's revealing peek into Mr. Cheney's behind-the-scenes machinations was the depth and breadth of his involvement in a policy area not regarded as a key part of his portfolio.
His many years in Washington - serving in three administrations as well as Congress - gave Mr. Cheney an intimate knowledge of how the place works, allowing him to put the government in service to his ideological and political goals.
If only the air, water, mountains, meadows, forests, fish and wildlife that Mr. Cheney so enjoys back home in Wyoming had such an advocate. The last 6 1/2 years could have been a time of restoration and recovery instead of exploitation and lasting damage.
Mr. Cheney's legacy includes:
Intervention in a water dispute that resulted in the largest fish kill ever in the West in 2002, from which salmon in Oregon's Klamath River have yet to rebound.
Federal refusal to regulate carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, and a move instead to ease regulations on aging power plants and utilities in the Midwest that pose a particular threat to Marylanders.
Scrapping the Clinton administration's "roadless rule," intended to protect national forests from logging, mining and development.
Lifting the Clinton ban on snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park despite studies showing the vehicles pollute the air, threatening human health and wildlife.
An administration energy policy that encourages oil and gas drilling on sensitive public lands and wilderness areas.
Staffing federal agencies with political appointees from the industries they are charged to regulate.
Democrats now running Congress are trying to push back, in part by approving a spending bill in the House last week that provides more money for cash-strapped parks and wildlife refuges and blocks leases for oil shale extraction on public lands. But the measure faces a Bush veto.
The environment's best hope is that the vice president has underestimated a growing movement in this country - notably among sportsmen in his native West - to stop thoughtless destruction of irreplaceable resources before it's too late.
A guy like Dick Cheney on their side could put the government back in the business of enforcing protections - instead of doing all in his considerable power to prevent it.