When top National Park Service officials promote the proposed revisions to the agency's Management Policies, they stress the point that "100 career professionals" oversaw the revisions. Of course, what we have learned is that the Park Service can't seem to identify those 100 individuals.
Well, today the chairman of the executive council of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees appeared before the House parks subcommittee to urge that it call on the Park Service to abandon the current efforts to rewrite the Management Policies. In doing so, Bill Wade told the committee that he represents 480 Park Service retirees who represent more than 14,000 years of Park Service experience.
And you can bet Wade can identify them.
Wade delivered eloquent testimony that was part history lesson and part admonishment.
The history lesson revolved around the intent of the National Park Service Organic Act and the amendments attached to it over the years, as well as a primer on the history of the Management Policies. The admonishment was directed at the political appointees in the NPS and the Interior Department whom the coalition believes are trying to insert politics into the Park Service's decision-making process when it comes to managing our national park system.
"Management of the national park system has been extraordinarily free of political whim -- until now," Wade told the committee. "All indications are that nearly 90 years of consistency in interpretation of the legislative mission of the National Park Service is at the brink of crumbling and the national park system is in jeopardy of suffering a 'hostile takeover' by recreational (primarily motorized) and commercial interests."
Wade then delivered a point-by-point chronology that shows the evolution of Republican-led efforts to force the Park Service to place recreation in the parks at least on an equal, if not higher, plane with preservation of the parks.
It's a wonderful synopsis worth reading, one that takes away any mystery of what the Bush administration wants to do with the park system.
Wade also takes what he terms as "disingenuous and vacillating statements" made by NPS Director Fran Mainella to support the revisions and crumbles them.
For instance, whereas Director Mainella and Paul Hoffman, the Interior Department's assistant deputy secretary for fish, wildlife and parks and who was a driving force in rewriting the Management Policies, have long claimed Congress asked for the revisions, Wade points out that there's no evidence of any such request.
Rather than regurgitating Wade's comments here, I encourage you to follow the link above to his comments and read them. Not only are they illuminating, but they provide ample fodder for protesting the rewrite -- don't forget, the Park Service's public comment period ends this Saturday.
"In the final analysis," Wade told the committee in wrapping up his comments, "the basic issue is trust. Frankly, we simply do not trust the current leadership of the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service to do what is right relative to the mission of the NPS, nor to do what represents the best interests of the American People.
"They have ignored science, research and scholarly analysis in parks. They have ignored the preferences of the American people. We have little confidence that they will pay much attention to the comments currently being received from the public on the draft policies unless they are the comments they want to hear."
Also presenting testimony was Deny Galvin, whose long Park Service career included a stint as deputy director. Among the points he made in his testimony was one I've made time and again:
"The national parks do not have to sustain all recreation; that is why we have various other federal, state, local and private recreation providers to share the demand, and to provide for those types of recreation that generally do not belong in the national parks, or that must be carefully limited," said Galvin, who appeared on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association.
"The 1916 NPS Organic Act, emphasizing conservation for future generations, is substantially different from the organic laws of the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, or any other federal agency. The NPS mission is also different from that of state park agencies, or of county or city park agencies. Together, these agencies provide for many forms of public recreation, but not all forms of recreation are appropriate in national parks."
Now we get to sit back and see whether the House subcommittee is interested in preserving the parks for future generations, or letting inappropriate uses run roughshod over them.