Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bushco Sacrificing the National Parks?

Proposed revisions to the National Park Service management plan may allow commercial activity and increased recreational useage.  The many revisions remove some of the language arising from the original 1916 legislation.


ENSLink


The new guidance is a "radical rewrite of management policies" that lacks "a clear statement favoring conservation," said Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen, a Virgin Islands Democrat and ranking member of the subcommittee. "This reinterpretation of the National Park Service's core mission cannot be justified."


The core intent of the plan originates in federal legislation of 1916 that established the National Park Service.  Conservation was to take precedence.


Critics point to the removal of language stating that Congressional intent of the 1916 law that created the National Park Service - and subsequent court decisions - recognize that conservation is predominant when there is a conflict between conserving resources and values and providing for enjoyment of the parks.


Instead, the new language reads, "The service must balance the sometimes competing obligations of conservation and enjoyment in managing the parks."


Other changes and language in the document appear to loosen controls on noise and commercial activities within the parks and allow increased recreational activities such as snowmobiling as well as the use of off-road vehicles and personal watercraft.


Of course the management plan requires revision periodically, but this proposal goes back to an April 2002 request from then (House Parks) committee chair George Radanovich (R-California), a request arising a short time after the last revision of 2001.  Prior to 2001, the plan was revised way back in 1988.


And recent testimony before the House Parks Committee yielded this:


But one witness told the subcommittee that the Bush administration's transition team was keen on revising the document as early as January 2001 - only two weeks after its release.


During the testimony, National Park Service Deputy Director Steve Martin confirmed that there were concerns but indicated that the final version would reflect that agency's primary obligation to protect the parks.


But not all were so easily convinced.


But Martin struggled to convince Democrats on the panel that the process was not being driven by the Bush administration.


Also testifying was Bill Wade, chair of the council of the Coalition of the National Park Service.  Mr.Wade directly questioned Bush administraton motives for the changes.  He did not mince words.


The new document makes management guidelines " more vague and unclear than what is currently in use," said Bill Wade, chair of the executive council of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.


Wade, a 32 year veteran of the Park Service and former superintendent of Shenandoah National Park, said the broad opposition to the proposal from nearly all except the recreation industry reflects suspicion of the Bush administration's political motives.


"The basic issue is trust, and frankly we have some concerns about the trust of the current leadership of the Interior Department and the National Park Service," Wade told the subcommittee.


"They have ignored science, research and scholarly analysis in parks.  They have ignored the preferences of the American people," Wade said.  "We have little confidence that they will pay much attention to the comments currently being received from the public on the draft policies unless they are the comments they want to hear."


Here is a link to a site with Wade's testimony as well as other relevant  materials. Link

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