ARC Submits Comments on NPS Management Policies

(Washington, D.C.) – On February 17, the American Recreation Coalition submitted comments on proposed revisions to the NPS Management Policies, a document designed to guide decisions throughout the agency. ARC advised the agency that it supports the current review as especially significant because the 2001 version of NPS management policies was developed under Interior leadership that assumed park visitation would increase dramatically and pose serious threats to the parks. In fact, park visits have not grown significantly. ARC noted that the lack of visitation growth may well mean that the mental, physical and spiritual benefits of visits to our national park system will be realized by a declining portion of the public and could have little meaning for some of the U.S. population cohorts experiencing the fastest growth – ethnic minorities, urban residents, and young people. ARC’s comments noted the assurance of agency leaders that the laws, regulations and executive orders now in place will prevail over policies and that the proposed revisions will not dramatically alter current park operations and conditions.

General Comments:

  • ARC commends the agency for seeking to address long-range and strategic goals.

  • ARC supports periodic review of and revisions to the agency’s management policies as a consensus-building effort with full and open discussion emphasizing ideas and vision. The proposed policies adopt a much more balanced approach toward the mission of visitor management in parks and are a far more accurate reflection of the progressive philosophy that guided the creation and early management of the national park system which was actively pro-people.

  • Park visitors are great friends of the national park system and the most important threats to the parks often arise from activities and uses proximate but external to the parks. The best means to address those challenges is agency communication with other entities, including state and local governments. The proposed revisions provide a stronger framework for engagement with external entities, as well as a proven philosophy for these efforts: cooperative conservation.

  • The 2001 policies erred in promoting a simplistic, single-focused mission that does not reflect the direction of the Organic Act and ignores the management precedents of the agency’s most respected early leaders, whose vision resulted in design and construction of infrastructure that has long enhanced visitation to the parks while providing protection for park features and qualities.

  • ARC strongly supports actions of the National Park Service that yield both resource protection and increased opportunities for public use and enjoyment, recognizing that virtually all organizations face multiple goals.

  • The proposed policies correctly support improved use of science to aid both decision-making and management. This strengthened direction is appropriate and is an important means to avoid and reverse decisions and actions based instead upon individual manager’s values and attitudes. Protection of intrinsic values of park units cannot become an excuse for opposing changes that are appropriate.

Recommendations:

  • ARC is very disappointed to find no reflection of the charge provided under Executive Order 13266, which directs the National Park Service and other federal land managing agencies to assist in a national goal of increasing healthy physical activity by the public as a means to promote improved physical and mental health. The National Park Service has taken important actions to implement this directive through the National Park Service Advisory Board. Reference to this activity, and guidance to the field to support implementation of the Board’s recommendations, should be incorporated into the proposed policies.

  • The proposed document is inadequate in providing park managers and allies with guidance for responding to a new fiscal reality – that the mission of the agency cannot be effectively implemented through appropriations alone, but that alternatives are available that can make park system management successful. Director’s Order 21 is referenced, but it is just a portion of the needed direction. We feel increased attention can and should be placed upon using fees to increase agency resources, as well as upon tapping funding available through other federal, state and local government programs in the transportation, health, education, criminal justice and other arenas. ARC has worked with the agency on this topic, producing a compilation of revenue sources known as the Toolbox for the Great Outdoors in 2003. A subsequent and significantly expanded Toolbox is now in development. We believe it, or at minimum a reference to its philosophy, must be incorporated into the final policies.

  • ARC firmly believes that increased use of technology to educate, interpret for and manage visitors – often through partnerships – is a preferred course for the National Park Service and should be explicitly supported in the Management Policies. The multi-lingual Pocket Ranger initiative at Santa Monica Mountains NRA is especially praiseworthy as proof of compatibility of technology and park mission and partnerships.

  • Finally, ARC is concerned by the failure of the proposed revisions to acknowledge and celebrate the extraordinary diversity of the national park system. This diversity must be reflected in the operations of these units. Man-altered environments like Lake Mead, much of Golden Gate NRA and the National Mall, for example, must be managed far differently than park units with extensive Wilderness and backcountry zones. And we are especially passionate about the value of these altered areas. These are the units that many Americans will first encounter when they visit the national park system, and play a special role in creating an understanding of the value of the priceless outdoor legacy we enjoy.

To view ARC's full comments, Click Here.
To view Executive Order 13266, Click Here.
To read "Fishing's Lure Lost on Young", Click Here.
To read "Still Buzzing", Click Here.