House Subcommittee Reviews Controversial Rewrite of Park Policies

Date:   February 15, 2006
Contact:   Andrea Keller Helsel, NPCA, 202-454-3332

House Subcommittee Reviews Controversial Rewrite of Park Policies

Washington, D.C. - The nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today testified before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee that there is no pressing need for the Department of the Interior to rewrite the policies that govern America’s national parks, and raised concern that the agency’s proposed rewrite would harm parks. The public comment period on the rewrite ends this Saturday, February 18, 2006.

“There is no need to re-write Management Policies,” said Deny Galvin, former deputy director of the National Park Service and member of NPCA’s board of trustees, in his written testimony. “For those narrow subjects that the Administration has asserted were not addressed in the 2001 edition (homeland security, cell towers, succession planning, etc.) the issuance of specific Director’s Orders is the operative process already in place to take care of them.

“What is needed,” Galvin added, “is for the broad constituency of interests that are engaged with the National Park Service—recreation, tourism, gateway communities, conservation, preservation, and regular “good citizens” —to step up their support for their national parks as they are, and as they are intended to be, preserved unimpaired for future generations to enjoy.”

Chairman Steve Pearce (R-NM) called today’s hearing in the Parks Subcommittee of the House Resources Committee to examine the Department of the Interior’s proposed rewrite of the parks’ Management Policies, which were revised as recently as 2001.

NPCA charges that the overall impact of the language changes in the proposed rewrite weakens protections for national parks, in particular, park air quality and wilderness, and could potentially lead to increased use of Jet Skis and off-road vehicles at the cost of preservation.

Several U.S. Representatives have shared their concerns about the rewrite with the administration over the last few weeks, including Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-5-CT), Rep. Nick Rahall (D-3-W.VA), and others.

In October, six U.S. senators sent a letter to 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.” Sen. Lamar Alexander, vice chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources national parks subcommittee, who signed the October letter, also sent a letter of concern to Park Service Director Fran Mainella earlier this month.

Also testifying today were the National Park Service Deputy Director Steve Martin; William Horn, former assistant secretary of the Interior for fish, wildlife and parks, and frequent spokesperson for the snowmobile industry; Kevin Kelly, vice president, Western Division, Delaware North Companies; and Bill Wade, former superintendent of Shenandoah National Park and chairman of the executive council of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

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