As more and more national parks around the country schedule "listening sessions" for the public to learn more about proposed revisions to the National Park Service's Management Policies, the opportunities are many for you to ask park managers to answer some tough questions.
And I think it's an opportunity that shouldn't be wasted. The folks at the National Parks Conservation Association feel that way too, and have come up with the following questions regarding the proposed revisions that we need to hear answers to.
1. Can you please tell me what is the goal/purpose you have for this listening session?
2. In what form will you be submitting comments (feedback) on the proposed policies made from us at this meeting to the Park Service in Washington, D.C.?
3. Have you read the rewrite?
4. Were you involved in the rewrite process? Did you participate in the 2001 rewrite?
5. How often do you turn to Management Policies for guidance when making management decisions?
6. What do you see as the most significant change in the rewrite when compared with the 2001 Policies?
7. Have you ever found the 2001 Policies to be lacking in clarity? If so, can you give me a specific example?
8. How frequently do you deal with conflict issues between protecting resources and allowing for visitor enjoyment?
9. If the basic statement in the current Management Policies that "...when there is a conflict between conserving resources and values and providing for enjoyment of them, conservation is to be predominant" is not being altered (as stated in NPS testimony and news releases), then why is it being removed?
10. In the 1916 Organic Act, the statute talks about the enjoyment of "the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life" in the parks. How would you define visitor enjoyment if different from above?
11. In numerous places throughout the document, the following changes were made: 1) "protection" to "conservation," 2) "preservation" to "conservation," and 3) "preservation" to "protection." If, as stated in Sec. 1.1, the words "conserve," "preserve" and "protect" "are not intended to, and should not be construed to, imply a greater or lesser restriction on opportunities for visitor enjoyment, or level of care for park resources and values," why were these words changed in so many places?
12. In the section on Unacceptable Impacts, what is meant by the term "unreasonably interfere with?" Unreasonable to whom? Unreasonable to park managers or unreasonable to a special interest group?
13. In Sec. 1.9 of the rewrite on Partnerships, it now states "The Park Service encourages conservation through consultation, cooperation, and communication, and through other forms of public involvement, including "consensus-based management." How would an on-the-ground manager be expected to interpret this change to apply "consensus-based" management? Would the NPS be expected to get the approval from partners, such as trail clubs or the local Chamber of Commerce before it takes certain management actions?
14. Throughout the document, there has been much greater use of the phrases, "The Service will strive to," "when practicable," "where reasonable," and "should" in place of "will". Do you expect that these changes will provide greater clarity and guidance to you? How do you interpret "when practicable?"
15. In the section on Cultural Resources, the sentence "Planning will always seek to avoid harm to cultural resources..." has been changed to read "Planning will always seek to avoid unacceptable harm to cultural resources." Can you give me an example of acceptable harm to a cultural resource?
16. What has changed since the 2001 Policies that would necessitate the removal of the prohibition against BASE Jumping in the revised policies?
17. When you have identified an activity to have an unacceptable impact, please explain how the addition of the "toolbox" in Section 8.2 will make your job easier while preventing impairment of the resource?
18. In the section on Visitor Use, the following language has been struck from the rewrite: "the Service will not allow visitors to conduct activities that:.would unreasonably interfere with the atmosphere of peace and tranquility, or the natural soundscape maintained in wilderness and natural, historic, or commemorative locations within the park." This deletion seems like a retreat from an emphasis within the national parks on protecting visitor enjoyment of natural sounds and natural quiet. Do you know why was this language was struck?
Now, be sure you share the answers you receive with the rest of us.