Business booster still guides national park rules

  A newly released National Park Service management policy will reduce environmental protection and boost commercial interests, according to conservation groups.

Specific words, entire paragraphs and whole chapters in the new rules trace back to a controversial document written this past summer by Paul Hoffman, the Interior Department’s deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks. Hoffman, a former head of the Cody, Wyo., Chamber of Commerce and aide to then-Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney, has long supported motorized recreation interests. In August, a Park Service employee leaked the rewrite to the public (HCN, 9/19/05: Revealed — secret changes to park rules).

"The original Hoffman rewrite got so much adverse publicity that Interior tried to deflect that by saying he did it only to initiate a dialogue and to play devil’s advocate," says Bill Wade with the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. "Now they’ve repackaged the Hoffman language and are trying to attribute it to over 100 National Park Service employees."

The rules, released Oct. 19, will weaken long-standing congressional mandates that emphasize preservation over recreational enjoyment of the National Park system. They will also allow increased air and noise pollution, snowmobiling, jet skiing and livestock grazing; delete a requirement that the Park Service review its lands for potential wilderness; and prevent the public from suing the agency for not complying with its own management policies.

The draft policy is available online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/waso. The Park Service is accepting comments on the plan until Jan. 19, 2006.