With time running out for comments on proposed revisions to the National Park Service's Management Policies, the flurry of paper heading to Interior Secretary Gale Norton is mounting.
Today, 35 members of the House of Representatives signed onto a letter drafted by Rep. Brian Baird that asks Secretary Norton to stop the overhaul of the Management Policies.
"These revisions would jeopardize the Park Service's ability to preserve our parks for future generations to enjoy," wrote the Washington state Democrat. "The revisions also raise serious concerns about the future course of our nation's land management policies."
Oddly, while Rep. Baird is co-chair of the Congressional National Parks Caucus, not all members of the caucus signed on. Notably absent is Rep. Mark Souder, the other co-chair.
Of course, the absence of Rep. Souder's signature isn't that surprising. He's a Republican, and Republicans don't normally chastise other Republicans. But then, party lines didn't stop Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., earlier this month from voicing his opposition in a letter to Ms. Norton.
Also missing from the list of co-signers to Rep. Baird's letter is Rep. Candice Miller, another Republican. I'm not surprised by her absence, though, as she wants to force the Park Service to allow personal watercraft in the parks, and so she probably loves the revisions. Which makes me wonder why she's a member of the National Parks Caucus?
In his letter, Congressman Baird, who represents Washington state's third congressional district, told Secretary Norton that "the proposed revisions de-emphasize preservation in favor of elevating the importance of current use." He also takes issue with wording that many believe would weaken the Park Service's responsibility for maintaining clean air and natural soundscapes.
"Congress has taken previous steps to clarify that when park managers face decisions regarding air pollution, noise, wilderness protection, and whether to allow specific recreational and commercial activities, they must always err on the side of preserving park resources," writes Baird. "The revised policies diminish and distort this prioritized mission by altering conservation-oriented language and replacing it with more permissive instructions.
"To put it simply, the revised policies confuse the mission of the Park Service," he adds.