Around The Parks: Paddling Legislation, GOP Wants Potential Monument List, New Director For Intermountain Region

A glance around the National Park System finds efforts to legislate paddling in some waters of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, GOP requests for list of possible national monuments, and a new director for the National Park Service's Intermountain Region.

Paddling Yellowstone and Grand Teton

Paddlers anxious to run their kayaks and canoes through waters of Yellowstone and Grand Teton now off-limits to that activity have gained the support of U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, who has introduced a bill to mandate that the National Park Service allow it.

As we noted back in June, canoeing or kayaking can be one of the most unobtrusive recreational pursuits in the national parks. They leave nothing in their wakes but ripples, are muscle powered, and vent no polluting exhaust.

Yet in Yellowstone and Grand Teton there are places where the Park Service bans paddlers, places that American Whitewater, a paddling advocacy group, maintains should be open to these silent running watercraft.

As the Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service work on their joint Snake River Headwaters Comprehensive River Management Plan and Environmental Assessment -- a plan needed in light of the recently designated portions of the Snake River headwaters as either "wild," "scenic," or "recreational" under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act -- American Whitewater believes the two agencies must move beyond outdated management approaches and open more rivers and streams in the two parks and adjoining forests.

Rep. Lummis agrees, and this week her measure, H.R. 3492, will be considered in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. That committee is chaired by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who has co-sponsored the bill.

The measure, which as of Monday had not been printed in its full form, according to Congress.gov, would also open waters in the National Elk Refuge near Jackson, Wyoming, if approved.

GOP Seeks List Of Potential National Monuments

In a renewal of past efforts, a group of Republican congressfolk have asked Interior Secretary Sally Jewell which parts of the country are being reviewed for possible national monument designation by President Obama.

If that sounds like a familiar request, it is. Nearly four years ago Reps. Bishop and Doc Hastings, R-Washington, demanded that then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar release all documents and maps related to an internal study of potential national monuments in the West.

Now, in the wake of Secretary Jewell's comments that the president would act to protect landscapes if Congress did not, 34 Republican lawmakers have sent the secretary a letter asking for "a comprehensive list" of sites being considered for national monument status.

In an address before the National Press Club on Halloween, Secretary Jewell pointed to the value of public lands when it comes to climate change, clean air and water, and local economies. She talked about preserving these lands for generations yet to be born, of the need to "think about what conservation legacy we will leave for the next 50 years, for the next 100 years."

President Obama, she said, "is ready and willing to step up where Congress falls short" when it comes to conserving public lands as wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, units of the National Park System, or in some other protected form.

In their letter to the secretary, the politicians wrote that "(W)e want to reaffirm our belief that public lands designations should originate in local communities where the concept enjoys broad support from elected officials, stakeholders, and other impacted individuals."

Director Appointed For Intermountain Region Of Park Service

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis has named Sue Masica as the agency's Intermountain regional director, responsible for leading 6,000 employees and 91 national parks visited by more than 42 million people annually.

Ms. Masica, who serves as the Alaska regional director, assumes her new position in Denver in January. She succeeds John Wessels, who left the Park Service in August.

“Sue has an incredible track record of tackling tough issues and finding innovative solutions,” Director Jarvis said in a prepared statement. “Results-oriented and goal-driven, Sue manages by inclusion, building a collaborative work ethic among employees and with partners. She strives for the highest standards of transparency and accountability. She brings great experience to her new position from her previous National Park Service assignments. Sue is a valued member of our national senior management team.”

As the Alaska regional director since May 2008, Ms. Masica oversees the largest national park and preserve acreage in the United States – 54.7 million acres – and an annual operating budget of more than $100 million. During her tenure in Alaska, she led critical planning exercises in anticipation of declining federal budgets, expanded the Park Service’s work with Alaska Native tribes and organizations, and expanded the public outreach efforts at both the regional office and parks.