Ahhh, there's nothing like a good poker game, and that's pretty much what we're seeing as various outdoor and recreational blocs are lobbying Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne hard over the latest version of the National Park Service's Management Policies.
As I noted the other day, the American Recreation Coalition is marshaling its members to pressure Fran to back away from the current version of the MPs when she testifies Monday before Representative Steven Pearce's parks subcommittee.
Well, that ante was matched this week when the Outdoor Alliance -- a coalition of human-powered sports groups that includes the Access Fund, the Winter Wildlands Alliance, the American Hiking Society, the American Canoe Association, American Whitewater, and the International Mountain Bicycling Association -- wrote Dirk to praise the current form of the MPs.
"We write this letter to express our deep satisfaction with the 2006 National Park Service Draft Management Policies and our gratitude for your wisdom and hard work on what has been a contentious matter," the letter reads. "By unambiguously and expressly articulating the primacy of conservation, the department, simply put, got it right and engendered a high level of confidence among the human-powered outdoor recreation community regarding the future of the parks."
It will be interesting to see how this game ends. No doubt ARC and its affiliates have much deeper pockets than the Outdoor Alliance. But, as I've been saying for nearly a year now, the national parks are not the place for every form of machinery and technology humankind can devise.
Money almost always wins every argument, but hopefully saner heads will prevail in Washington as this tug-of-war over the way our national parks are managed plays out.
As the Outdoor Alliance notes in its letter to Dirk, "Pursuits like descending through a steep river gorge or hiking through an ancient forest can (at their best) facilitate a sense of transcendence and timelessness that not only go to the very essence of why we have national parks, but also to the necessity that these lands remain unimpaired for future generations."
There is no need to turn our national parks into amusement parks with thrill rides. Nature creates her own thrills. To allow ATVs and personal watercraft to intrude on a sunset, to allow them to gouge ruts into the forests and across meadows or to dance atop lakes plied by canoes and kayaks, makes no sense.