With more than 50,000 comments received on the proposed revisions to the National Park Service's Management Policies, the agency's leadership plans to spend the next few months working through the comments and tweaking the revisions.
Under a timeline laid down by NPS headquarters, the agency hopes to have another draft of the document in hand by June, with a final draft shipped to Director Fran Mainella by late July. As for the public? Well, it's role in reviewing the revisions apparently is over.
Under the timeline, by April 7 the NPS hopes to have all the comments sorted and analyzed so that a "career review team" can take a look at them April 10-14 during a meeting in Denver. After making some "editorial refinements" and "consulting with program managers and specialists," a revised draft of the revisions will be reviewed in mid-May by the NPS's career leadership team as well as an independent advisory board.
Throughout June, comments on the revisions will be available for review by NPS employees, but not the public. During the first three weeks of July any comments generated during the June review will be evaluated and final edits will be made to the document, with input from the agency's National Leadership Council.
The resulting "final draft" will then go to Director Mainella for her approval.
Of course, not all members of Congress agree with how the NPS is handling the Management Policies. U.S. Senator Ken Salazaar of Colorado believes the public should get another look at the revisions once the NPS is done with its latest tweaks and edits.
"At the heart of my own concern is a proposal to abandon the NPS's 100-year old standard to 'do no harm' to park resources," the Democrat said. "But regardless of my concerns, the public should be given more time to weigh in on changes of such significance, therefore the revised rules should be circulated for public comment before they are made final."
The senator's concern is merited, for the Bush administration has made clear its desire to see more motorized recreation in the parks. Just look at the ongoing, expensive debate over snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park that the administration has prolonged, despite two environmental impact statements that have clearly stated that a ban against snowmobiles is in the best interests of the park, its wildlife, visitors and employees.
Additionally, the administration's Interior Department overruled at least two superintendents of national seashores who wanted to ban personal watercraft from their waters but had to rescind those decisions.