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Back in the Saddle


    Don't you hate it when work gets in the way of what you really want to be doing? I've been tied up the past week or so spending just about all my waking moments on one of my day jobs and so haven't been able to follow some of the issues that continue to swirl around our national parks.
    But now that's been put to rest, and I can get back to staying on top of things. Or at least trying.
    What I've been so busy with is wrapping up work on a national parks guidebook -- National Parks With Kids -- that Frommer's will be releasing next spring. And in finishing that project, I understandably spent some time thinking about what makes national parks so special.


Here's a snippet from the book's opening chapter that I think is extremely relevant as we continue to debate how the national parks should be managed:

            Collectively, our national parks are a vast, and at times seemingly boundless, touchstone that cradles our nation’s conservation ethic, our connection to the North American continent’s wild side, and even our own self-inspection. Through parks like Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Yosemite and Sequoia we can walk off into the forest, or to the top of a mountain, and discover things about ourselves we never truly realized before: How self-reliant we are or are not, how we can see beauty in something as simple as a lily pad in bloom, how fit we truly are, or how little we really know about the world around us. In the parks we can find enjoyment in nature without need for electronic stimulation from a video game or stereo, and come to understand how fragile earth is.

    Connecting with nature. Appreciating nature. Trying to get a better understanding both of nature and our own limitations. Isn't that what visiting national parks is largely all about?
    During the next two-and-a-half months, as the public comment period on the National Park Service's proposed revisions to its Management Policies continues,  we need to push that notion to those in Washington who think we need more motorized recreation in the parks, who want to further commercialize the parks in drips and drabs, and who want to shine more light on those corporations that offer to donate to the parks, rather than on the parks themselves.
    Yes, the so-called "Hoffman draft" of the Management Policies is officially history. At least in name. The revised version is toned down...outwardly, but in Washington, D.C., a city where folks spend a great deal of time and effort on how they phrase things, it pays to take a very close look at some of the words that are in --and some that are not in-- that revision.
    In one of the circles I travel in someone has taken a lot of time to closely scrutinize the rewording of the Management Policies, and what they found deserves to be trumpeted to park advocates. For instance, in some sections the revision has replaced the word "enjoyment" with "use," and "preservation" with "conservation." Subtle changes, perhaps, but ones that carry a lot of significance when someone is trying to argue for more motorized use.
    Another red flag, one that I pointed out many posts ago but only now am returning to: Why do the Park Service and the Interior Department want the Management Policies to be off-limits to third-party challenges? Why don't they want the general public, who own the parks and who utilize them, to be able to take the agencies to court and argue that they're not living up to the Management Policies? Or to argue that the Management Policies don't faithfully interpret the National Park Organic Act?
    Is it because they know exactly what they're doing with these subtle word changes and don't want to be forced to explain?


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