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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Preserving our Parks

Air Date: Week of October 28, 2005

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Park advocates were up in arms last August when a leaked National Park Service management proposal outlined significant policy changes. A revised proposal is less drastic but Bill Wade, a spokesperson for the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, says it may allow for more noise and pollution, and weaken the conservation of our national parks.

Transcript

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

Cell phone towers within the national parks. More acc ess for skimobiles and off-road vehicles. Skydiving from cliffs. And brand names on national park buildings. These are some of the ways that National Parks could go, according to some analysts who have looked at a leaked planning document mapping out the system's future.

Director Fran Maniella says the leaked document was only meant to stimulate discussion. But she does say changing times call for changes in policy.

MANIELLA: To manage parks emphasizing either conservation or enjoyment to the exclusion of the other imperils the national park concept.

CURWOOD: With me is Bill Wade. He’s the former superintendent of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. He’s now spokesperson for the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

Bill, as I understand it, conservation has been the main goal of our national parks. Now the Parks Director Fran Maniella is calling for the need to balance conservation and public enjoyment. What might this change in focus mean?

WADE: Actually, policies governing the management of the parks date back to 1918, and they’ve been revised every ten to 15 years. But in every one of those, from 1918 through the 2001 version, the preservation or the conservation has been specifically stated as the primary responsibility of the National Parks Service. And it’s only with this latest revision that the administration is trying to roll out to increase the emphasis on enjoyment and recreation and certain kinds of activities in parks that we believe would be inconsistent with that longstanding mandate to preserve and protect the resources in parks.

CURWOOD: In August there was a draft proposal of policy changes by the deputy assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Mr. Paul Hoffman, and that draft – which was never officially released, I gather – but that draft called for, well, among many other things, elimination of the world “evolution” in National Parks Service publications and books sold in parks’ stores. I’m wondering, is that revision still in this policy that’s been announced by the director? And what else of deputy assistant secretary Hoffman’s recommendations remain in what the National Parks Service director is calling for now?

WADE: Well there still is some emphasis on the issue of reducing the emphasis on evolution. In addition to that, for instance, there are possibilities within the new proposed draft that grazing could be increased or initiated in certain National Parks Services areas. There certainly could be impacts on the air quality.

CURWOOD: Bill, there have been other ideas floating around that would change our approach to national parks. I’ve heard suggestions that we might sell off some park properties that get few visitors, and that perhaps the naming rights of buildings should be sold in exchange for donations. What do you think of these ideas?

WADE: Well, they’re very troubling. There is, consistent with the revised policies that are out for comment right now, is a director’s order that would allow, for instance, much more blatant recognition of donators and funders to national parks in the form of benches with their names on ‘em, or public facilities in the parks perhaps named after them.

I can just imagine someday that we would see an interpreter getting on a stage in the visitor’s center and beginning an interpretive talk with a big banner behind him with perhaps the National Parks Service arrowhead and the park logo, and then interspersed there would be something like the Nike logo.

Those kinds of things we just think are not appropriate and don’t maintain the contrast that exists right now that people see national parks providing in contrast to their daily lives. I think those kinds of things would not be in the best interest of the parks.

CURWOOD: Bill Wade is the spokesperson for the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. Bill, always a pleasure.

WADE: Thank you very much.

 

Links

Coalition for National Park Service Employees

National Parks Conservation Association

National Park Service Draft Proposal

 

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