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Dear Ms. Norton


        The Outdoor Industry Association represents about 4,000 businesses that, as the industry's name indicates, make a living off the out-of-doors. As such, the group was pretty disturbed when it got wind of the changes that the Interior Department's Paul Hoffman wanted to make to the National Park Service's Management Policies.     
    So disturbed, in fact, that it didn't merely complain to NPS Director Fran Mainella. No, it went right to the top, writing Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton to express its displeasure. Specifically, the group told Norton that it cannot accept policy changes that would:     
    1. "Compromise the feeling of quiet awe and contemplation that visitors seek in enjoying our national treasures."     
    2. "Reduce scientific reasoning in management of park resources."     
    3. "Weaken protections for air quality, water and wildlife."     
    4. "Increase commercial development of National Parks."     
    5. "Reduce the quality of outdoor experiences for hikers, paddlers and campers in National Parks."     
    6. "Designate mining and grazing as primary 'park purposes.'"     
    "High standards are required for National Parks," the group adds in its letter. "They are the crown jewels, the places that define America. The American people will not forgive us if we harm them or reduce the quality of their experiences in them."
    While the group also asked, in wrapping up its letter, to hear back from Norton on the department's plans for Hoffman's revisions, I'll be surprised if they do. This administration doesn't seem to feel a need to explain itself to the people who elected it.
    True, the Park Service's chief of communications dubbed Hoffman's work as merely a "devil's advocate's" approach to seeing whether the policies should be updated. But when given a chance, Director Mainella refused to respond to concerns voiced by the Coalition of National Park Services Retirees -- a group that represents more than 400 Park Service veterans -- and then, in a letter to the New York Times, she refused to question any of Hoffman's proposals.
       Hopefully, Mainella and Norton will respond by tempering, if not eliminating, Hoffman's proposals when they release a draft version of proposed updates to the policies later this fall.

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