Mr. Manson Responds
Last week the Sacramento Bee took a pretty harsh view of revisions the Interior Department's Paul Hoffman proposed to the Management Policies that guide how the National Park Service oversees the nation's parks, monuments, and historical parks. And the newspaper provided readers with the email address of Craig Manson, the Interior Department's assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, so they could express their outrage directly to Mr. Manson, who just happens to be Mr. Hoffman's boss.
Well, it turns out that Mr. Manson didn't think so highly of the Bee's editorial. In fact, in a response that the newspaper printed on Sunday, the assistant secretary suggested that the newspaper didn't have its facts right and that it should refrain "from personal attacks."
I'm just a wee bit curious about Mr. Manson's view and interpretation of his employee's proposed revisions, as well as his view and interpretation of the National Park Service Organic Act. On one hand, Mr. Manson says Hoffman's efforts don't "propose to open up national parks for new off-road uses of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles." Yet in the very next sentence he says those decisions are left to "professional park managers."
Well, let's see just what Mr. Hoffman is suggesting.
According to a draft of his revisions that I've seen, he does indeed raise the bar for what is considered intrusive to national parks. Since 1916 the standard that proposed activities were held to was "adverse impact." Mr. Hoffman crosses that out and inserts "impair." And he crossed out language stating that "negative or adverse environmental impacts are never welcome in national parks, even when they fall far short of causing impairment."
Beyond that, Mr. Hoffman also inserted language that allows for traditional off-road vehicles, such as snowmobiles and ATVs, to use roads normally used by automobile traffic. Furthermore, he writes that "off-road use on off-road routes or in off-road areas may be necessary, when consistent with park purposes, to provide opportunities for visitors to use and enjoy parks."
I don't know, Mr. Manson, but to me that reads as though Mr. Hoffman is indeed proposing to open up parks to "new off-road uses of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles."
And I guess I'm a bit confused by Mr. Manson's suggestion that "professional park managers" should have the authority to OK the use of snowmobiles, or Jet skis, or ATVs, in national parks. Those uses go against the very mission of the Park Service as set down by the National Park Service Organic Act in 1916.
Don't take my word for it. Check out Hoffman's revisions to the Management Policies by visiting the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees' web site and then read Manson's complete op/ed piece here. And if you disagree with him, email him at Craig_Manson@ios.doi.gov.