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Rec Industry Attacks Park Policies
Written by Scott Silver   
Friday, 21 July 2006

JULY 21, 2006


The recreation industry is protesting in no uncertain terms the newest draft (June 19) of a National Park Service management policy.

Industry officials complain that the latest iteration, known as the 2006 draft, would return the agency to a management policy the Clinton administration published in 2001.  They prefer a draft policy the Park Service prepared on Oct. 18, 2005.

"Our review of the 2006 draft compared to 2005 indicates a return now to the radical elements of the Babbitt-Clinton (draft of 2001) that we find objectionable," said Bill Horn, a former top Interior Department official in the Reagan administration and leader of pro-use forces on the issue.  Horn, an attorney for the law firm Birch, Horton, Bittner and Cherot, is preparing comments for the recreation industry on the 2006 proposal.

On a parallel track the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) offered similar complaints in comments it submitted to NPS July 14.  The coalition asked NPS to balance use with protection.  "We urge that the document be revised to put 'enjoyment' - park visitor experiences - in a positive context and as a primary objective, giving development of visitor services and facilities equal standing to conservation," said ARC.

The coalition said the Park Service should revise its management policies on a regular schedule.  "Changes in laws, regulations and knowledge will occur and must be considered by the agency as impetus for modified Management Policies," said ARC in comments submitted by coalition president Derrick Crandall.

When the Interior Department released the new draft June 19 it gave the impression it would favor protection over use, much in line with the 2001 Clinton policy.  Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne said famously at the time, "When there is a conflict between conserving resources unimpaired for future generations and the use of those resources, conservation will be predominant.  That is the heart of these policies and the lifeblood of our Nation's commitment to care for these special places and provide for their enjoyment."

The new draft supposedly reverses many of the provisions in a draft policy prepared last September by Paul Hoffman, then deputy assistant secretary of Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, and a second draft of Oct. 18, 2005, prepared by NPS.

Critics such as the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees charged that the two 2005 drafts tilted too much toward damaging visitation.

The 2006 draft has apparently mollified NPCA and the retirees.  Said NPCA when the latest version came out, "The draft document released today for internal agency review appears to reaffirm the park-protective emphasis of the current policies.  Language that confirms the National Park Service's over-arching predominant mission of long-term preservation has been maintained, as well as protections for park air quality, wilderness, natural quiet, and other resources."

The recreation industry is fighting back, using input from Steve Martin, deputy NPS director and lead architect of the proposal to argue against an 'austere' protection policy.  He reportedly told industry, "Our mission is one of protection and providing enjoyment and use, not one or the other.  The only truth to the accounts (in the press) is that when we are faced with a conflict that cannot be managed, and use will cause impairment, we will choose protection so that the area involved can serve future generations."

In addition Martin submitted a memorandum June 21 to Kempthorne that explicitly said the draft, if adopted, would not affect snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park.  "According to the draft Management Policies, all current laws, regulation and Executive Orders that deal with snowmobiles remain in effect," said Martin. "Snowmobiling will continue in the 47 parks where it is now occurring providing it is not causing impairment of park resources."

Horn offered two examples of his objections to the latest draft.  Of conflict resolution he said, "The appropriate uses section of the 2001 policy tells a superintendent that when there is a conflict he is to close the park first and them manage.  The 2005 draft tells him to manage first and then if that doesn't work to go to closure. The 2006 draft in a half-dozen cases goes almost verbatim to the Clinton policy.  It doesn't make sense to close a park before the park attempts to resolve the conflict."

Of soundscape restoration Horn said, "The 2001 policy directs a superintendent to restore silence wherever possible and it defines degradation as human-caused.  The 2005 draft directs the restoration of the soundscape whenever practicable.  Under the 2001 draft it would be possible to restore silence in Yellowstone by keeping all cars out of the park.  This has enormous implications."


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 21 September 2006 )

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