10/05/2010 03:09 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Caught Between a Rock and Red Tape

If you want a quick snapshot of how maddeningly hard it can be to get anything -- anything -- done on federal land, given the endless layers of "process" one must wade through, consider the case of Kimberly Appelson, 23, whose body has been wedged under a rock in the Arkansas River since July, awaiting a recovery operation tied-up in red tape.

Appelson drowned after falling from a raft at Frog Rock rapids, a notoriously tricky spot not far from Buena Vista, but her body remains trapped there, months later, according to the Denver Post, while retrieval options are studied by bureaucrats.

The river's managers hope to erect a temporary dam -- possibly using concrete highway barriers -- to divert flow away from the sieve and give divers a chance to reach Appelson.

There's plenty of red tape to go through before any work is done. The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service would require some environmental analysis. The Army Corps of Engineers would need to approve the plan. Wildlife officials require protection for the river's brown trout. If all goes well, work would be done sometime this month.

I'm not diminishing the challenge involved in this recovery, but it doesn't seem right to have a family waiting for the return of a loved one while all the usual agencies are consulted and a pointless "process" drags on. If you can't even recover a body without such delays, what chance do you have of getting anything else done on federal lands (or waters) in a reasonably-timely way? The "process" is broken, and absurd, as the story proves. Appelson is as much a captive of federal red tape as she is the boulders at Frog Rock rapids.

Cut the crap, move the rock and return this woman to her family. I don't care if retrieving the girl's body inconveniences the frigging brown trout. Slavishness to a "process" under these circumstances isn't just inhumane -- it's insane. But it's typical of the bureaucratic deluge that ties every decision involving federal lands in such knots.

First free Kimberly Appelson. Then free the rest of us from the cruel tyranny of federal red tape.