Vice President Dick Cheney had his roomful of energy industry officials when he drafted the Bush administration's energy policy, and now it seems the Interior Department's Paul Hoffman had some coaches of his own when it came to revising the National Park Service's Management Policies.
Hoffman apparently was doodling around with the revisions for roughly two years, so going back to 2003. Turns out that Hoffman met with representatives from air tour companies who offer flights over the Grand Canyon and other national parks back in January of 2003. During that meeting, talk centered around "relooking at the series of oppressive air tour regulations which have been implemented. Meetings have been held with key members of Congress and staff about developing legislation to address many of these issues."
So how did air tour companies fare in Hoffman's revisions? Welllll, his handiwork would rephrase language pertaining to overflights so that the Park Service would take steps only to mitigate "impairment or significant adverse impacts resulting from aircraft overflights."
The existing language calls for the Park Service to "take all necessary steps to avoid or to mitigate adverse effects from aircraft overflights." Just a few subtle word changes, but the bottomline changes dramatically.
Folks are digging to see whom else Hoffman might have received input from in preparing revisions. Don't be surprised if the snowmobile industry shows up.
And to be fair, all administrations -- Democratic and Republican -- cater to their friends, whether they be the environmental groups the Clinton administration pandered to from time to time or the air tour operators and snowmobile industry that the Bush administration wants to keep happy.
However, someone's gotta draw a line when that pandering impacts not just the environment, but an institution as noble, soul-satisfying and far-reaching as the national park system. We have enough theme parks out there and millions of acres for snowmobilers to play on without invading and overrunning national parks without sensible restrictions.
For an excellent review of what Hoffman proposed to do, visit www.npsretirees.org. They've posted the redline workup of his changes.