Rewrite of National Park Policies Contains Damaging Proposals

Date:   October 27, 2005
Contact:   Craig Obey, NPCA, cell: 202-669-9689
Kristen Brengel, The Wilderness Society, 202-429-2694
Carl Schneebeck, Bluewater Network, 415-544-0790, ext. 19
Bethanie Walder, Wildlands CPR, 406-543-9551
Charles Clusen, Natural Resources Defense Council

Rewrite of National Park Policies Contains Damaging Proposals

Washington, D.C. - As reported on the New York Times editorial page, the Department of Interior has rewritten the policies that govern protection of America’s national parks, diminishing park protection and boosting commercialism as priorities for the National Park Service.

Contrary to statements by the Department of Interior last week, the proposed policies redefine the overarching duty of the Park Service, weakening references to longstanding, legal mandates that clearly emphasize preserving the country’s heritage. Additional changes steer the national parks toward greater commercialization and exploitation. The proposed policies ease the way for increased air and noise pollution and increased high-impact uses previously barred from most national parks, such as Jet Skiing, snowmobiling, and livestock grazing. Additionally, the draft policies dismantle protections for existing and potential wilderness.

Eroding the existing Management Policies further, the proposed polices also include an explicit statement barring the public from holding the Park Service accountable for actions taken under the revised policies.

Longtime national park professionals and watchdog organizations have reviewed the 277-page document and have identified specific words, whole paragraphs, and entire chapters in the draft 2006 Management Policies that retain key elements of an earlier, damaging draft rewrite. This earlier draft sparked nationwide controversy when it was leaked and the author identified as Department of Interior political appointee Paul Hoffman, a former head of the Cody, Wyoming, Chamber of Commerce and aide to then-Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney. ( An enclosed preliminary analysis cites specific edits made in the proposed new policies.)

A statement by the above-mentioned groups is as follows:

"Several key proposals in this current draft weaken protections for our national parklands. The changes significantly reduce clarity provided to park managers in the current Management Policies about their overarching duty to conserve park resources. The revisions could lead to increased use of snowmobiles, Jet Skis, off-road vehicles, commercialization, and grazing while weakening protections for wilderness and air quality."

“We are concerned that these changes do not reflect what Americans consistently tell the National Park Service they want in their national parks and we question the impetus for this rewrite. We renew our call for the Department to explain why these changes are necessary and who is demanding this rewrite. We believe it was a fundamental mistake to issue this proposal and urge the Department of Interior to withdraw it.”

# # #

Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) will be holding an oversight hearing exclusively on management policies in the Senate National Parks Subcommittee on Tuesday, November 1, 2005 at 10:00 a.m. in Washington, DC.

The New York Times editorial, “The National Parks Under Siege”


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