WASHINGTON - November 1 - The nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today testified at a congressional hearing on the Department of Interior’s revisions to the policies that govern management of the national parks, saying that the current process “is flawed and should be abandoned.”
Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) chaired the hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Subcommittee on National Parks. Former Deputy Director of the National Park Service Deny Galvin testified on behalf of NPCA as a member of the organization’s Board of Trustees. “This generation owes it to the future to maintain the standards that have made it [the National Park System] great,” Galvin said.
NPCA’s central question, which remains unanswered, is why the Department of Interior has chosen to pursue revising the policies at this time. No credible justification for the rewrite has been offered. “The 2005 draft does not meet the level of protection of its predecessors,” Galvin told the committee today. “The 2001 document is better and should be retained.”
Preliminary assessment of the Department of Interior’s proposed revisions to the existing (2001) Management Policies raises concerns that the overall impact of the language changes in the draft weaken protections for our national parklands, in particular, park air quality and wilderness, and could lead to increased use of Jet Skis, off-road vehicles, commercialization, and grazing at the cost of preservation. The draft also significantly reduces clarity provided to park managers in the current Management Policies about their overarching duty to conserve park resources.
Last week, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and five other Republican senators sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, saying, “the primary mandate of the National Park Service to err on the side of preservation appears to be deemphasized in the draft. At best, this change appears to blur, not clarify, the Park Service’s primary responsibility to keep the parks protected for the future.”
The senators also said: “We still question… the need for requiring the Park Service to change its policies so quickly after publication of the last revision in 2001. The Department’s first principle in rewriting Park Service policies should be to do no harm.”
Also testifying today were National Park Service Deputy Director Steve Martin on behalf of the agency; Bill Horn, a frequent spokesperson for the snowmobile industry; and Don Castleberry, former Midwest director of the National Park Service on behalf of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.