Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The National Parks: Reason 143 to despise Bush

Even if I didn't have 142 other reasons to intensely dislike the GOP and GWB, their attack on the national parks would do all by itself:
Crossroads in the National Parks - New York Times

The Interior Department has extended the period in which the public may comment on the National Park Service's controversial plan to rewrite the management policies for the national parks.

.. The main problem with the proposed revisions is that, taken together, they shift the management focus from the park service's central, historic mission — preserving natural resources for the enjoyment of future generations — to commercial and recreational use of the park for today's generation. As many members of the House and Senate have pointed out in letters to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, air quality and wilderness are especially at risk since the policy appears to invite greater use of snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles.

... President Bush's new budget calls for a $100 million cut in park appropriations. Viewed cynically, deliberately underfinancing the parks could create the necessary cover for opening the parks to more commercial activity — the last thing the parks need. It also makes a mockery of one of the few campaign promises George W. Bush ever made about the environment: his promise in 2000 to end the maintenance backlog in the national parks. The sharpest cuts — some $84.6 million — would come from money for construction and major maintenance, the very area Mr. Bush promised to address.

... Despite efforts to cram snowmobiles down the public's throat, snowmobile use in Yellowstone has dropped this year, falling well below the 720 machines that are allowed into the park each day. Visitors — including former snowmobilers — are increasingly choosing to use snow coaches, the specially equipped buses that are vastly cleaner than even the cleanest snowmobiles. And Yellowstone is seeing a greater variety of visitors in winter than it used to see when snowmobilers dominated the park.

This battle — as well as the larger battle over the parks' true purpose —isn't likely to end soon. Off-road vehicle groups are doing their best to pressure an already pliable park service leadership in Yellowstone and Washington into increasing access...
The tragedy of the motor brigade is that by winning they destroy what they love -- the wilderness. The Yellowstone story has impressed me though -- given better alternatives they choose the snow coaches to preserve quiet and clean air. That result was predicted by Clinton-era surveys, but of course Norton/Bush disregarded it.

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