Please, Secretary Salazar — spare us the dramatics.

The Republican budget is a “death knell” for conservation programs, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

AP reports Salazar “at times struck a political tone” while touring the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge near Boynton Beach, Fla.

“A great fear I have is that there will be a U-turn,” Salazar told AP.

President Obama requested $11.5 billion for Interior in the fiscal 2013 budget, which includes $516.8 million in cuts from 2012.

The House plan would give Interior $10.3 billion.

Yes, we’re all well aware that no big-government bureaucrat wants to see his or her department in any way downsized and won’t shy away from theatrics to ensure their preservation — and ostensibly “protecting America’s great outdoors” is a convenient rallying cry with which the Interior Department can appeal the sympathies of environmentalists and wilderness enthusiasts alike.

In reality, however, big-government oversight is very often at odds with environmental quality. The federal government owns almost one-third of the surface area of the United States, but they consistently lack the money, resources, and knowledge to provide effective stewardship. The instances of environmental degradation are too many to ignore alternative methods of management — maybe some severe downsizing at the Department of Interior is precisely what our national parks need.

Yes, friends, I’m talking about not only more state/local government, but also privatization — a way to provide parks with the type of attentive environmental stewardship that comes from eliminating the tragedy-of-the-commons effect, and to remove them from the list of taxpayer liabilities. And no, our national parks would not be paved over with shopping malls in a New-York minute: as long as there is a demand for wilderness, there will be wilderness; and if that isn’t enough for you, it is possible for the federal government to lease or sell land to privateers in trust for specified uses.

It may not rank highly on our to-do list of downsizing government, but if we’re ever going to get serious about balancing our budget, the Interior Department should not be awarded sacred-cow status — especially when bureaucratic inefficiency and political gamesmanship is so often the cause of the poor stewardship of the American landscape.