Comment Now to Protect Parks from Bad Policies

Please take a few moments today or tomorrow to comment on the proposed wholesale rewrite of the policies managing Grand Canyon and all of our country’s national parks. These National Park Service policies guide park managers in how they govern their parks, what uses they allow, their efforts to protect and conserve park lands and waters and their relationship with park concessionaires.

The current policies were adopted in 2001 and place appropriate emphasis on protecting parks over recreation and other uses. Keeping sound policies intact is critically important to ensure the protection of the parks from degradation, abuses and escalating commercialization. Unfortunately, the new proposed policies elevate recreation and commercialization over protection. Your comments submitted by Sunday, February 19th will discourage the adoption of this ill-conceived re-write.

Especially critical to Grand Canyon is the National Park Service’s proposal to prematurely remove from protection any wilderness areas that have been recommended for wilderness designation but not yet been presented to Congress for a vote. Thus, Grand Canyon would immediately lose the protection it has enjoyed due to the NPS’ current policy of treating recommended wildernesses as fully designated wildernesses until a vote. This opens all potential wildernesses to degradation, and by the time Congress considers designation, the qualities formerly making those areas suitable could be gone along with the opportunity, never to be regained. The backcountry and river of Grand Canyon were recommended by the park for designation in 1980 but it has not yet been presented to Congress for approval.

Another area of great concern is the minimizing of the importance of natural quiet in parks that would result from the proposed changes. The new proposed policy deletes language directing parks managers to preserve “to the greatest extent possible, the natural soundscapes of parks” and instead substitutes language that directs the restoration of degraded soundscapes “wherever practicable”, a much weaker mandate. This new standard would allow degradation the old policy does not.

The new policies would also elevate concessionaires’ rights to operate free from “unacceptable impact” by park managers, including efforts to mitigate or prevent resource (environmental) damage. This would severely limit managers in dealing with concessionaires and places the importance of concessions operations higher than anything else in a park, already an issue of great concern in Grand Canyon.

Motorized equipment, personal watercraft and off road vehicle use will enjoy more protection from managers’ attempts to regulate them under the new policies. Policy direction that instructs managers to consider the removal of helicopters, motorized boats, PWCs and ORVs will be removed in the proposed changes, a dangerous precedent and one that disregards the wishes of tens of thousands of Americans who have made it clear that these uses should be removed from Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks, among others.

Please write your comments and preferences for preserving the current, standing policies and direct the National Park Service to abandon the ill-conceived 2006 Draft Policies rewrite. You can submit your comments by midnight, February 18th via email to or by letter to: Barnard Fagen, National Park Service, Office of Policy, Room 7252, Main Interior Building, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.

To see what will be deleted and what will be added in a single document (as a pdf file), go to the NPS website at: