Ahh, I knew it wouldn't be long before we'd begin to hear moaning and gnashing of teeth over the new -- or should I say old? -- tack the National Park Service is taking with its Management Policies.
While conservationists, NPS staff, and Interior Department officials seem awfully pleased with the latest version, which restores the emphasis on conservation in the parks just a slight, miniscule notch above recreation, the folks over at the National Marine Manufacturers Association are screaming foul.
"The National Park Service cannot allow itself to be held hostage to those who argue for minimal access," the group says in a release. "It goes against the spirit in which these parks were created."
The Park Service is being held hostage? Those backing the restoration of common sense in park management are interested in limiting public access to our parks?
Before you put any credence in those claims, folks, remember that the marine manufacturers are the ones who earlier this year claimed that mere rumors and a few small bans of personal watercraft in some national park units cost the American economy $3 billion over a nine-year period.
Before I quote further from the NMMA's release, let me point out something: The latest version of the Management Policies, which guide on-the-ground decisions in the national parks, has not been finalized. It'll be out in the field for the next three weeks so NPS personnel can review the document, and then who knows how long the Interior Department will wait before finalizing the MPs. And even then, don't expect all parks to lock their gates against boats or personal watercraft.
Now, back to the NMMA. In their release, the group says "the proposal calls for a shift in power to park superintendents to dictate use policy often leading to arbitrary decisions. Rather than following the 'best scientific information available' standard reflected throughout previous Management Policies for NPS planning and decision-making procedures, the new policy signals a shift to a 'guilty until proven innocent' approach to public use in respect to conservation management efforts."
"Best scientific information available" standard? Where were these folks when two environmental impact statements and an environmental analysis determined that Yellowstone National Park would be best off without snowmobiles tooling around in the winter? And now the Bush administration is ramming a third EIS down Yellowstone's throat. Any chance the NMMA will urge Dubya to drop that effort in the name of its "best scientific information available" standard?
Here's another gem: "Public recreation and responsible environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive."
Well, NMMA got that right. However, the group seems to have overlooked U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studies that show your "average 2000 model-year personal watercraft can discharge between 3.8 and 4.5 gallons of fuel during one hour at full throttle."
Now, while the Personal Watercraft Industry Association, which is an offshoot of the NMMA, likes to point out that roughly 80 percent of new sales involve cleaner and quieter 4-stroke personal watercraft models, with an estimated 1.48 million PWCs in use, there still are a lot of 2-strokes on the market.
(You can find that tidbit, and the details on the watercraft industry's claim that rumors and bans against personal watercraft cost the American economy $3 billion over nine years, here.)
Over at The Wilderness Society, Kristen Brengel thought the NMMA had pretty big cojones for issuing the release, particularly the claim that there's a movement to limit national park visitation.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," she told me. "The policies support traditional recreation in national parks, like hiking, cross-country skiing, bird-watching, wildlife viewing, activities that most Americans do participate in when they go to a national park.
"As far as boating is concerned, national parks only make up 2 percent of water bodies in the United States. In most of these places, boats are allowed," she continued. "If they are specifically referring to Jet skis, which have demonstrated environmental and safety concerns, park managers should be reviewing whether they should be allowed. In most cases, we believe Jet skis are not appropriate in national parks."
And over at the Bluewater Network, which sued the Park Service over personal watercraft access, Carl Schneebeck also was scratching his head over the boating industry's claims.
"It's pretty laughable that there's a claim that there's going to be minimal public access, especially when there are 273 million people visiting the parks," he said, adding that, "the more a place is preserved and protected, the more desirable it is to visit."
Ain't that the truth.