WASHINGTON - August 31 - After a year of pressure from Congress, park experts, and the American public, the National Park Service today issued the final 2006 Management Policies, which conservationists and retired National Park Service professionals say rebuke efforts by the off-road vehicle industry to erode park protections and instead reinforce the agency’s commitment to protect park resources such as air quality, and preserve wilderness and the experiences of visitors.
“From Yellowstone to the Everglades, park managers will have guidelines that promote a healthy future for all parks. We commend the Administration for finalizing this preservation-oriented version, but the true test will be their implementation, especially when it comes to Wilderness designation and protection and snowmobile, Jet Ski, and off-road vehicle use,” said Kristen Brengel of The Wilderness Society.
Despite last minute lobbying by the off-road vehicle industry, the final version issued today confirms the National Park Service’s over-arching predominant mission of long-term preservation, and reinstates protections for park air quality, wilderness, natural quiet, and other resources.
In particular, the final policies restore conservation as the primary mission of the National Park Service, restore natural sounds as a protected resource in our parks, and offer improved guidance for superintendents to determine if, when, and how new cell towers are sited in national parks.
Over the past year, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, The Wilderness Society, and others have effectively advocated that the Department of the Interior’s effort to rewrite the National Park Service’s Management Policies be stopped and the existing policies remain intact.
Bill Wade, Chair of the Executive Council of the Coalition of NPS Retirees said, “This is a significant victory for Americans who care deeply about their national parks and want them preserved for their children and grandchildren and not, as some have been advocating, turned into drivers for the economic gain of a few and opened up for rampant motorized recreational uses. We commend the National Park Service career professionals for standing up to the pressure and defeating the earlier drafts foisted on the NPS by political operatives in the Department of the Interior.”
The August 2005 rewrite of the parks’ Management Policies sparked nationwide controversy when it was leaked and the author identified as Department of the Interior political appointee Paul Hoffman. Hoffman’s draft was followed by another draft in October in 2005 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 this 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. Secretary Kempthorne publicly endorsed the National Park Service’s revised draft, which was issued to the public in June 2006 and shared with National Park Service employees for feedback.
“Secretary Kempthorne, the dedicated staff of the National Park Service, Congress, and the American public deserve enormous praise for this significant victory for America’s national treasures and generations of visitors,” said NPCA President Tom Kiernan. “We applaud the Secretary for his leadership on these policies and now look to the recently-announced National Park Centennial Challenge as our next opportunity to restore the faded glory of national parks.”