Maine Residents Weigh-In on Controversial National Parks Policy Rewrite

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   February 14, 2006
Contact:   Alexander Brash, NPCA, cell: 917-420-0876


Maine Residents Weigh-In on Controversial National Parks Policy Rewrite

BAR HARBOR, MAINE - The nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and Friends of Acadia are hosting a public listening session tonight in Bar Harbor about the controversial rewrite of the National Park Service’s 2001 Management Policies. NPCA is concerned about the Department of the Interior’s hasty process of altering the policies that govern America’s national parks, and contends that the proposed rewrite is potentially harmful to Acadia, Cape Cod, Minute Man National Historical Park, and other parks.

“Acadia, Cape Cod, Minute Man, and all of our national parklands should be preserved for our children’s children to enjoy,” said NPCA Senior Northeast Regional Director Alexander Brash. “The current, hastily undertaken effort threatens to fundamentally weaken the policies that protect our national treasures. It must be abandoned.”

The Park Service is hosting a public comment period on the proposed policy changes until February 18, 2006. Public listening sessions on the proposed policy changes have been held nationwide. Tonight’s event will be held in Room 132 at Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor from 5 - 7 p.m.

In late August, the Department of the Interior’s draft rewrite of the National Park Service Management Policies was leaked to the press and met with resounding public opposition. The agency then released a revised draft version in October. NPCA charges that the overall impact of the language changes in the current draft weakens protections for national parks, in particular, park air quality and wilderness, and could potentially lead to increased use of Jet Skis, snowmobiles, off-road vehicles, and commercialization in the parks at the cost of preservation.

For example, proposed changes to the Management Policies might allow a level of permanent, man-made air pollution at Acadia, rated by NPCA in 2004 as one of the nation’s top five most polluted parks, by redefining the park’s “natural” conditions to include man-made impacts like coal-fired power plants. The changes might also make it easier for industry to challenge the popular ban on Jet Skis at Cape Cod National Seashore, which is supported by local communities.

In October 2005, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) joined four other Republican senators on a letter to Department of the Interior Secretary Gale Norton about the proposed rewrite. “We are concerned that some changes with the potential for weakening the Park Service’s role in protecting air quality and increasing the potential for inappropriate motorized use in the national parks appear to be retained [from an earlier draft],” they wrote. “The Department’s first principle in rewriting Park Service policies should be to do no harm.”

The non-profit conservation organization Friends of Acadia, which has granted more than $5.48 million to Acadia National Park and the surrounding communities, echoed concerns that the draft policies could have serious consequences for the national parks and is not needed at this time. “The law that established the National Park Service contains a clear mandate that national parks be preserved unimpaired for future generations,” said Stephanie Clement, Conservation Director for Friends of Acadia.

“The current re-draft of management policies seems inconsistent with the law and appears to weaken the protective language contained in earlier policies. This could result in resource degradation, and we hope that the National Park Service will abandon this unnecessary re-write,” she added.

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