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"Human-Powered" Recreationalists Applaud Dirk and Fran


    Ahhh, there's nothing like a good poker game, and that's pretty much what we're seeing as various outdoor and recreational blocs are lobbying Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne hard over the latest version of the National Park Service's Management Policies.
    As I noted the other day, the American Recreation Coalition is marshaling its members to pressure Fran to back away from the current version of the MPs when she testifies Monday before Representative Steven Pearce's parks subcommittee.
    Well, that ante was matched this week when the Outdoor Alliance -- a coalition of human-powered sports groups that includes the Access Fund, the Winter Wildlands Alliance, the American Hiking Society, the American Canoe Association, American Whitewater, and the International Mountain Bicycling Association -- wrote Dirk to praise the current form of the MPs.

    "We write this letter to express our deep satisfaction with the 2006 National Park Service Draft Management Policies and our gratitude for your wisdom and hard work on what has been a contentious matter," the letter reads. "By unambiguously and expressly articulating the primacy of conservation, the department, simply put, got it right and engendered a high level of confidence among the human-powered outdoor recreation community regarding the future of the parks."
    It will be interesting to see how this game ends. No doubt ARC and its affiliates have much deeper pockets than the Outdoor Alliance. But, as I've been saying for nearly a year now, the national parks are not the place for every form of machinery and technology humankind can devise.
    Money almost always wins every argument, but hopefully saner heads will prevail in Washington as this tug-of-war over the way our national parks are managed plays out.
    As the Outdoor Alliance notes in its letter to Dirk, "Pursuits like descending through a steep river gorge or hiking through an ancient forest can (at their best) facilitate a sense of transcendence and timelessness that not only go to the very essence of why we have national parks, but also to the necessity that these lands remain unimpaired for future generations."
    There is no need to turn our national parks into amusement parks with thrill rides. Nature creates her own thrills. To allow ATVs and personal watercraft to intrude on a sunset, to allow them to gouge ruts into the forests and across meadows or to dance atop lakes plied by canoes and kayaks, makes no sense.


How selfish can a person get? Doesn't the canoes and kayaks "intrude on a sunset?" Doesn't hikers and people on horseback "gouge ruts into the forests and across the meadows?" It's sad to see anyone try so hard to receive special treatment. It appears your writer is proposing just that. I though "national" parks were for everyone, not just self righteous people seeking to promote their private views of park usage as the "right" thing to do. Stop being selfish and learn tolerance.

Mike, Glad to have your two cents. Obviously, when it comes to national parks we disagree on what is and isn't appropriate. And that's fine. My whole intention is to spur debate. There are a couple things you need to understand so you'll see where I'm coming from. The U.S. Forest Service manages 191 million acres, most of which are open to hikers, mountain bikers, ATVs, snowmobiles, and even Jet Skis, if there are lakes. The Bureau of Land Management manages 261 million acres, much of which are open to hikers, mountain bikers, ATVs, Jet Skis, snowmobiles and just about everything else under the sun. Both the Forest Service and BLM are mandated to manage for these multiple uses, and that's fine. The Park Service manages just a little under 84 million acres, and its key mandate is to conserve those lands for future generations, unimpaired. If you've spent any time reading my blog, you know that Jet Skis, snowmobiles and ATVs are incredibly polluting machines, both in terms of dumping oil and gas and generating noise. That pollution, if unmanaged, can lead to serious impairments of landscapes, watersheds, airsheds, and even humans and wildlife when it comes to air and noise pollution. The way I see it, there are nearly 452 million acres already open to every recreational device out there, while the Park Service is trying to protect less than 84 million acres from the most polluting devices. Am I intolerant or selfish for wanting to see the government protect those 83+ million acres -- which constitute less than 16 percent of the collective Forest Service, BLM and Park Service lands -- from pollution and impairment, as the Park Service is already mandated to do? I don't think so. Perhaps if I were demanding that the government protect the 452 million acres of Forest Service and BLM lands by banning ATVs, ORVs, snowmobiles and Jet Skis from them you could level that charge, but I don't think it works in this scenario. The parks are indeed open to all comers. However, as things currently stand, those visitors merely must comply with existing rules and regulations. I think we'd do a tremendous disservice to future generations if we unleashed ATVs, ORVs, snowmobiles, and Jet Skis on the national parks. The ball's in your court, buddy. Still think I'm intolerant and selfish? I imagine there are an awful lot of folks out there who would attach those labels to you for wanting to overrun the parks with motorized toys. Is there no place that should be off-limits?

Well said. Yes, there are and should be public lands where Jet Skiis and snowmobiles and so forth can be enjoyed. And there should be trails where horses can be ridden, without mountain bikes scaring them. And bike trails. And hikers-only trails. And wild places that don't ever have any trails at all. But remember this: You can always carve a new trail, or open a new area to ATVs and snowmobiles. But once the wilderness is gone, it's gone. The process is not reversible.

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