New Draft of National Park Management Policies Appears to Restore Agency's Fundamental Mission

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   June 19, 2006
Contact:  

 Andrea Keller Helsel, NPCA, 202-454-3332



New Draft of National Park Management Policies Appears to Restore Agency's Fundamental Mission

New Draft Heeds Concerns Raised by Congress, Public, Park Experts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new draft of the National Park Service’s Management Policies issued today reinforces the agency’s commitment to protect park resources such as air quality, and preserve wilderness and the experiences of visitors, according to conservation groups and retired National Park Service professionals. They called on Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and National Park Service Director Fran Mainella to finalize the draft policies. Preliminary analysis indicates that the National Park Service, after pressure from Congress, park experts, and the American public, produced a new draft that largely reflects the park-protective policies in the existing 2001 Management Policies.

Today is a hopeful day for America’s heritage,” said Kristen Brengel of The Wilderness Society. “Restoring the National Park Service’s policies is recognition that the American public does not want wilderness, clean air, and wildlife protection diminished.”

Over the last nine months, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, The Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and others have urged that the Department of the Interior’s effort to rewrite the National Park Service’s Management Policies be stopped and the existing 2001 policies remain intact. The groups raised concerns that the rewrite process should not open the door for disruptive and damaging motorized activities in parks, and that the policies needed to protect park air quality, wildlife, scenic vistas, historic treasures, and other resources that attract millions of visitors annually be maintained.

While we do not yet have a final draft, our sense is that the National Park Service has produced a proposal we can support,” said NPCA Senior Vice President Ron Tipton.

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.

Other sections, on topics such as fire management and how and where the National Park Service might approve new cell towers, have been improved over the 2001 policies.

This draft restores the principle that the National Park Service’s primary duty is to protect park resources,” said Charles Clusen, director of NRDC’s National Park Project. “Kudos to the agency’s professional staff for standing up for maintaining the integrity of our national parks.”

The August 2005 rewrite of the parks’ Management Policies sparked nationwide controversy in August 2005 when it was leaked and the author identified as Department of the Interior political appointee Paul Hoffman. Before joining the department, Hoffman ran the Cody, Wyoming, Chamber of Commerce and served as an aide to then-Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney.

Hoffman’s draft was followed by another draft in October by the Department of the Interior, which also raised considerable concern among bipartisan members of Congress, park experts, and others. More than 50,000 comments were submitted when the draft was posted in the Federal Register—one of the most significant outpourings of public concern about a park issue in the 90-year history of the system.

Park employees will have the opportunity to provide feedback on today’s draft over the next three weeks before National Park Service Director Fran Mainella finalizes it.

“The career professionals of the National Park Service, concerned members of Congress, and the American public who commented on the flawed policies deserve immense credit for turning back the attempt to politicize and diminish the long-standing mission of the National Park Service,” said Rob Arnberger, former Alaska Regional Director for the National Park Service and member of the Executive Council of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) will be holding an oversight hearing exclusively on the latest draft of the parks’ Management Policies in the U.S. Senate National Parks Subcommittee on Tuesday, June 20, at 2:30 p.m. in Washington, D.C. NPCA and the National Park Service will provide testimony.

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