Boy, the New York Times was given a lesson in journalism by the L.A. Times, and the topic was national parks. More specifically, the topic was about the Bush administration's efforts to open up national parks to more snowmobiles and ATVs while weakening protection of natural resources and wildlife.
The story's antagonist is Paul Hoffman, once a relatively obscure chamber of commerce official in Cody, Wyoming, just outside the eastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park, but now a deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Interior. And in that role he recently proposed sweeping revisions to the policies that dictate how the National Park Service manages the park system.
How serious Hoffman's efforts are is up for debate, and both the east and west coast versions of the Times have different takes on that. Read on....
Under Hoffman's proposals, only activities that created "irreversible" damage to parks would be banned. And under that approach, more snowmobiles and even ATVs could be allowed into parks. The bottom line, as Hoffman sees it, should be that parks are for recreation first, and everything else is secondary. He even proposed striking down existing language mandating that "the Service will strive to preserve or restore the natural quiet and natural sounds associated with" parks.
While the New York Times maintains that wiser heads have prevailed in the Park Service and rejected Hoffman's revisions, the Los Angeles Times' story isn't so optimistic. Compare the two stories -- here's the New York Times' version and here's what the L.A. Times wrote.
In the New York Times' story, pay attention to the paragraph that notes Hoffman is higher up the chain-of-command than Park Service Director Fran Mainella, and so ultimately could dictate changes in the management policies. In the Los Angeles Times' story, read what superintendents -- current and retired -- have to say about Hoffman's handiwork.
For more reaction, turn to the Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees to get their take on this mess.
When it's all said and done, does anyone need more evidence that the Bush administration is a serious threat to the preservation of our national parks? We should be spending our time and dollars properly funding the parks and strengthening their ecosystems, not brainstorming ways to weaken them.
Or am I missing something here? How thrilled will the parks' gateway communities be if preservation gives way to full-tilt recreation that turns wildflower-flocked meadows into dust bowls and succeeds in silencing biological diversity?