Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Trouble in our national parks

Let us consider for a moment two paragraphs; first:

The National Park Service will preserve, to the greatest extent possible, the natural soundscapes of parks. Natural soundscapes exist in the absence of human- caused sound. The natural soundscape of a park is the aggregate of all the natural sounds that occur in parks, together with the physical capacity for transmitting natural sounds. Natural sounds occur within and beyond the range of sounds that humans can perceive, and can be transmitted through air, water, or solid materials.

And then:

The natural soundscape of a park is the aggregate of all the natural sounds that occur in that park, together with the physical capacity for transmitting natural sounds. Natural sounds occur within and beyond the range of sounds that humans can perceive, and can be transmitted through air, water, or solid materials.

Very similar paragraphs for sure but there is a key difference. The second one omits the call for preservation and does not acknowledge the human influence on soundscapes.

These two paragraphs are taken from different versions of the same document. The first is from the current working version of the National Park Services "Management Policies"; the second is from the proposed revisions to those policies. The documents are available here.

National Park Service management policies are the official guidelines all park employees must follow in their work. To disregard them is to break the law. These policies were originally established in the 1916 Park Service Organic Act and have traditionally called for preservation of natural resources, particularly so that future generations can experience wilderness areas in as pristine a condition as possible, unchanged from what our grandparents, parents and ourselves experienced.

This paragraph on soundscapes is only an example. One edit out of many. The proposed revisions have a great many more edits and apply to more than just sounds. Common changes throughout the documents include the word "human" being replaced by "unnatural", "possible" is often replaced with "practicable" and there are many paragraph changes like the one mentioned above. The end result of this subtle shift is that the mission of the Natural Park Service, historically to preserve and protect our natural resources, is being changed.

The architect of this change is Paul Hoffman. A Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of Interior. Paul Hoffman is a crony to Dick Cheny and has no experience working with the National Park Service. It is unclear why he is pursuing this set of changes as it does not address any known problem with the management of the National Parks, does not respond to any request by voters or petitions by citizens of the United States.

The results of these changes will fundamentally alter the National Park Services mission to de-emphasize environmental protection and open the door for exploitation. The mandate to preserve National Park resources for future generations is eroded or removed. Destructive forms of recreation, such as ATV's, will be introduced, and development within the parks will be encouraged.

The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, as the title suggests, is a group of former NPS employees. It includes a who's who of former park service directors, deputy directors many former park superintendents, executives and others that have spent a great deal of their lives and careers working for our National Parks. It is this group that brought Hoffman's first attempt at editing the management policies to public attention. The first "red line" draft was so extreme in its blatant exploitation of park resources that Hoffman could not defend it as a reasonable change, claimed it was only a draft version and backpedaled considerably to create the toned down current draft. (link)

A re-drafting of the management policy changes has not satisfied the group. The CNPSR stands firmly opposed to the current draft as well. (link) Their arguments include the fact that NPS employees were not consulted on the document. That the assumption that recreation and conservation are to be equally considered is flawed. And that the changes are completely unnecessary in the first place.

My opinion on this issue agrees with the CNPSR. I believe that this amounts to the current political administration attempting to create wealth opportunities for a minority of business persons at the expense of the majority of Americans, including future generations. Creating more recreation opportunities in our National Parks by building ATV trails, hotels and other amusements causes very little gain as these things are often available in areas immediately outside the protected parks and the destruction caused will be permanent and irreversible. The intrinsic value of having a protected and preserved wilderness area, particularly over the span of many generations, outweighs the economic value of new development. I am very disappointed that these changes are being introduced without any input from people with experience managing our National Parks. I am disappointed that it is being attempted behind our backs with little publicity or discussion from the citizens of the United States to whom these lands belong.

The new management policies are currently open to public comment. Concerned citizens and persons with relationships with any of our National Parks are encouraged to contribute.

Links to more information on this issue:

National Park Service is Being Skinned from the Inside-Out (New West Network)

Past is Prelude: Whose Interests Should National Parks Serve? (New West Network)

Destroying the National Parks New York Times Editorial (from Google cache)

Additional articles from the New York Times (archived, purchase required)

Thanks for the info...they start messing with "my park" i'll be grumpy. Glacier is the one place I always find solice.
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