I guess Congressman Stevan Pearce didn't get the note about Fran undergoing an emergency appendectomy. On August 7th, the day after Fran had her surgery, the Republican from New Mexico -- who just happens to chair the House parks subcommittee -- submitted to her office a list of proposed changes to the National Park Service's Management Policies.
Among Rep. Pearce's suggestions?
Well, that much more emphasis be placed on the public's enjoyment of national parks, that the Park Service worry more about long-lasting impairments than short-term impacts to national parks, that the agency not worry about "nebulous 'values'," and that park superintendents not be so gosh awful worried about noise pollution.
I guess these suggestions are not totally unexpected from the congressman, who earlier this summer held a hearing into the Management Policies with Fran as the only witness and who last fall held a lengthy hearing into the National Park Service Organic Act, which is the document that decreed that the Park Service should focus foremost on conservation of national park landscapes.
Yep, Representative Pearce is taking it upon his broad shoulders to set things right...or at least as right as he sees things. Some think he's merely doing the dirty work for the American Recreation Coalition, which is working hard in these dog days of August to tweak the Management Policies a few more times before Fran signs them into being.
But how can that be, as I'm told he doesn't reply to folks outside of his congressional district on national park issues. Kinda makes you wonder how, with such tight blinders on, he got the chairmanship of the parks subcommittee, doesn't it?
Among Representative Pearce's suggestions to Fran is that the Park Service get out of the wilderness business. He specifically asks that Section 6.3.1, which deals with "Wilderness Resource Management," be withdrawn because, as he puts it, "If taken literally, NPS personnel could view this policy as to encourage management plans for thousands of acres that would then no longer be open to certain segments of the visiting population and certain recreational activities."
As for natural soundscapes -- crickets at night, howling wolves, yipping coyotes, the rush of streams and the cascading of waterfalls, not to mention the wind through the trees -- the good congressman suggests that the Park Service only concern itself with noise when park soundscapes "have become severely degraded."
To support this suggestion, Representative Pearce -- and I'm not making this up -- says the existing language would allow Park Service personnel to eliminate "any human-caused sounds, including but not limited to anything mechanical or non-mechanized, such as musical concerts and in-line skating, etc., in a National Recreation Area."
Over at the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, the folks are simply shaking their heads.
"We are disappointed in Congressman Pearce," Bill Wade, chair of the group's executive council, tells me. "He seems to be paying much more attention to the narrow interests of the American Recreation Coalition and their motorized recreation advocates than to the 50,000, or more, who provided comments during the legitimate public comment period -- most of which were not in favor of the changes in the policies that Mr. Pearce and the ARC are still pushing for.
"We believe the National Park Service should ignore his letter," Wade adds. "Unfortunately, Mr. Pearce seems to be paying a lot of attention to interests like ARC, but won't even respond to letters and emails to him from anyone outside his district in New Mexico, even though as chair of the National Parks Subcommittee he is supposed to represent a wider constituency."
Over at the Park Service, I'm told the Management Policies should be signed by Fran by Labor Day ... in their present form, with no significant changes.