Usually I try to pace my posts to give folks time to ruminate over them, but developments critical to the future of the National Park Service are flying fast and loose in Washington. This Thursday there will be a potentially explosive hearing in the House Parks Subcommittee led by New Mexico Republican Steve Pearce.
The topic? The National Park Service Organic Act of 1916.
During the Bush administration there has been increasing concern by some in the Republican Party that there is not enough balance between preservation of our national parks and Americans' ability to enjoy them. Specifically, their concern is that the National Park Service, in the name of preservation, is not providing enough opportunities for Americans to truly enjoy the parks.
The problem they're encountering, though, is that the Organic Act rightly puts preservation of the parks' landscape above recreation. Why? In part to ensure that future generations can enjoy these incredible places.
The Interior Department's Paul Hoffman tried to remedy that perceived imbalance earlier this year by rewriting the Park Service's Management Policies in such a way as to allow more motorized recreation in the parks and to significantly raise the bar as to what is considered to be a park "impairment."
However, as I noted in an earlier post, Hoffman's changes, if adopted, most likely would not be able to withstand a court challenge because of the dictates of the Organic Act. Which brings us to Thursday's hearing in Washington.
The hearing, scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. EST in Room 1324 of the Longworth Building, is being promoted as merely an "oversight" hearing, one that is not expected to generate any legislation to retool the Organic Act. However, among the witnesses that will testify are Chuck Cushman, the executive director of the American Land Rights Association, which is a pro-private land rights group.
Also on the witness list is Bill Horn, a former Interior Department official during the Reagan administration who now is a lobbyist for such groups as the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association and the Blue Ribbon Coalition, groups that want to see much greater snowmobile access in Yellowstone and Grand Teton.
Also on the list is Deny Galvin, a former deputy director of the National Park Service who is on the board of directors of the National Parks Conservation Association.
There should be some interesting testimony out of this hearing. Stay tuned.