Friday, June 23, 2006

National Parks Mission Change Halted

This editorial about public response at mission changing for the national park system is an excellent reminder of the power of the individual, particularly when speaking together on one issue.

However, the management concept the government was promoting, that management plans need periodic updating, is very valid. Part of the problems with the management of our Parkway is that the mandated five year review of the 1985 Parkway Plan wasn’t adhered to, finally being updated more than twenty years later.

While an every five year update process doesn't make much sense for a national park system (though every ten years does), it makes very good sense for a local one.

Here is an excerpt.

Editorial: When Americans speak ...

U.S. Park Service reverses radical course
Published 12:01 am PDT Friday, June 23, 2006

When the American people speak, sometimes, just sometimes, their government listens.

After 50,000 people sent in comments on proposed radical changes in the management of the nation's parks, the National Park Service stopped the rewrite of regulations in its tracks.

On June 13, new Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced a new draft of the rules that restores the consistent 90-year history of policies that emphasize keeping our national parks unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations as well as for our own time.

This is a major victory for public participation.

The fight began last August, when a political appointee's draft of the rules was leaked. That draft downgraded the 90-year mission of the parks and emphasized more commercialized parks with more motorized recreation. The fight continued when the Department of the Interior released a formal draft in October with those changes.

At a Tuesday hearing before the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, Stephen Martin, deputy director of the National Park Service, told senators how the department came to reverse that course. He said public comments "repeatedly stressed the vitality and relevancy" of the 1916 act that created the National Park Service and that the act "must be honored" in the management of our national parks. "We heard that our mission to protect parks was of paramount importance," he concluded.


There are some lessons in this experience. The last rewrite of management policies was in 2001, after a six-year public process; the park service usually does updates only once a decade. No one provided a convincing argument why the park service needed new management policies after only five years -- much less a radical overhaul of the 90-year mission of the national parks system.