In response to my posts about Banff (and here), my good friend JM told me to "remember the place because it might end up being the last pristine place in North America..."
Controversy Over Plans for Changes in U.S. Parks
By Julie Cart
A series of proposed revisions of National Park policy has created a furor among present and former park officials who believe the changes would weaken protections of natural resources and wildlife while allowing an increase in commercial activity, snowmobiles and off-road vehicles.
National Park Service employees warn that the changes, which were proposed by the Department of the Interior and are undergoing a Park Service review, would fundamentally alter the agency's primary mission.
"They are changing the whole nature of who we are and what we have been," said J.T. Reynolds, superintendent of Death Valley National Park. "I hope the public understands that this is a threat to their heritage. It threatens the past, the present and the future. It's painful to see this."
The potential changes would allow cellphone towers and low-flying tour planes and would liberalize rules that prohibited mining, according to Bill Wade, former superintendent at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
Larry Whalon, chief of resource management at Mojave National Preserve, said the changes would take away managers' ability to use laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act to oppose new developments in parks.
Although Interior and the Park Service are free to change the service's management polices at any time, they have been amended only twice. The last time was in 2001.
Officials at the Park Service's Washington headquarters downplayed the significance of the proposed revisions, saying they were less a reflection of policy than an attempt to start a dialogue.
The changes are the brainchild of Paul Hoffman, who oversees the Park Service and was appointed deputy assistant secretary of the Interior in January 2002.
Hoffman came to the Park Service after serving as director of the Chamber of Commerce in Cody, Wyo. He had previously served as Wyoming state director for then-U.S. Rep. Dick Cheney from 1985 to 1989.
"Paul Hoffman had some initial suggestions and prompted us," said David Barna, a Park Service spokesman. "Paul Hoffman was playing devil's advocate. He was saying, 'Show us, the political appointees who make policy, why do you do things the way you do?' It was a starting point. We're a long way from that now. They have drafted a new raw draft."
The proposed changes, which have been in the drafting stage for two years, were leaked this week. About the same time, a group of 400 retired Park Service employees scheduled a news conference for today to announce a campaign to block the changes from taking effect.
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Terry Tempest Williams on the necessity of open spaces in a democracy:
Engagement: What is the Meaning of Democracy?