Sunday, June 24, 2012

More On The Potential Affects Of Pending Legislation Before Congress

More from the Coalition of National Park Retirees on the impact of new legislation on management of our National Parks.

H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would elevate fishing, hunting, and shooting over all other uses of the National Park System. Throughout the National Park System, authorized public uses are not distinguished from each other; they are all managed on the same level, unless singled out by the enabling legislation for a specific area. No one activity is given favored status throughout the System. The bills would alter that balance, however, by requiring NPS to “support and facilitate” hunting, fishing and shooting. No other public recreational activities are subject to a statutory mandate imposed on NPS to affirmatively advance the opportunities to engage in such uses of the park area’s resources. These bills would require NPS to take extra steps to assist hunters, trappers, fishermen, and recreational shooters. H.R. 4089 subsection (I) tries to brush this problem away by stating the bill does not require a “preference” to be given to these activities over other uses. This provision does not negate the fact, however, that NPS would be legally required to take action to support and facilitate hunting, fishing, and shooting, when a similar affirmative duty does not apply to any other uses.  

I would point out that even if as stated above the bill does not require "preference" to be given to hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreational shooting it does open an argument for special interest groups to file law suits against the National Park Service if they do not agree with their interpretations.  This would end up costing our government money and time that could be dedicated to more relevant issues.  If you do not believe this could happen just look at the long history of court actions by the NRA to open parks to hunting and other cases involving the use of snow machines and personal water craft in our National Parks as just a few examples.

Tragedy Strikes - Another National Park Ranger Makes the Ultimate Sacrifice Saving Others

For the second time this year Mount Rainier National Park has been devastated by the loss of one of their own.  This past Thursday Park Ranger Nick Hall fell 3,000 to his death while rescuing climbers off Mount Rainier.  Once again a National Park Ranger has made the ultimate sacrifice protecting others.  I can only imagine the sense of grief and loss his family and fellow workers must be experiencing.

Even though I am now retired I still find myself deeply affected by the loss of another National Park Service Ranger.  My thoughts and gut are tied up in thinking about the dangers faced by Park Rangers every day and how easily things can go wrong.

The situation at Mount Rainier is acerbated by the fact that just this past January 1st Park Ranger Margaret Anderson was shot and killed in the line of duty at Mount Rainier setting up a road block to stop a vehicle that turned out to be driven by a wanted murderer.

Many Park Ranger's across the country face dangerous situations on a daily basis.  Unfortunately neither Margaret or Nick were facing challenges that do not have the potential to exist every day in our National Parks.

Park Rangers are not the only employees to face hazardous working conditions.  Just this past May Maintenance Worker Dana Bruce was killed when the mower he was operating rolled down the side of an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Our National Parks are wild places that do not allow for many societal or natural controls.  Both people and nature are constantly changing and unpredictable environments to work in.  Today National Park staff members are taken aback with this latest loss, but they will continue to do the job they have dedicated their lives to; protecting our National Parks and the people who visit them.

On this day let our thoughts and prayers be with the family, friends, and co-workers of Nick Hall in this time of grief and loss.

Nick Hall

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Adverse Effects of Sportsman’s Heritage Bills on the National Park System

As I have written before, the National Park System is under an attack by Congress that could turn management of our Nation's treasures on its ear.  The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees is speaking out against a bill that recently passed in the House and is now being considered in the Senate that would open most areas managed by the National Park Service to hunting, trapping, and recreational shooting.
The Federal Government already manages millions of acres where these activities are permitted and managed.  Theses areas are under the direction of the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, DOD and others.  Now special interest groups want to change practices that have been in place and upheld by Federal Courts in National Park areas since their founding.
The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees has published a paper that specifies the challenges that this change in direction of National Park Service Management will generate.  I will publish these as a series on this blog so that you may be informed and make your own decision on how this will impact our future.
One last diatribe from me; I find it hard to believe that our members of Congress can find time to consider such additions to bills rather than work on the economy, jobs, and our National debt.
Coalition of National Park Service Retirees
The House of Representatives has passed H.R. 4089, a bill that would open most units of the National Park System to hunting, trapping, and other consumptive uses of fish and wildlife and additional currently prohibited uses.  In doing so, the bill would also undermine fundamental principles of management that have governed the National Park System for decades.  A similar bill, S. 2066, had previously been introduced in the Senate, but no further action has been taken. These bills present what is perhaps the greatest threat to the National Park System throughout its history.  This briefing paper highlights some of the most significant problems with these two bills.
H.R. 4089/S.2066 would invalidate the decades-old management principle that consumptive uses of National Park System resources are prohibited unless expressly authorized.  NPS has long governed units of the National Park System based on the principle that hunting, trapping, collecting specimens and other uses that extract natural resources from park area ecosystems are not allowed, unless Congress has clearly authorized such activities.  This longstanding principle has been confirmed by the courts.  H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would eliminate this principle because they would recognize that hunting, trapping, fishing and collecting are to be affirmatively supported and facilitated on all federal lands.  As a result, H.R. 4089/S. 2066 would stand NPS management policy on its head, creating a presumption that consumptive uses are the norm, and must be allowed unless expressly prohibited.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rocky Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway Makes Top Ten List Of Campgrounds

Rocky Knob Campground located on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia made the top ten list of locations in a recent article in the National Parks Traveler web site.  I could not help but notice that this selection is one of some pretty spectacular sites all west of the Mississippi.

Visitors Still Face Dangers In National Parks - If Not Prepared and Smart

The number of visitors that meet their deaths in National Parks remains surprising.  Many are the result of people not remaining aware of their surrounding and limitations, making dangerous decisions, and taking unnecessary risks due to a false sense of security while using parks.

This article from the National Parks Traveler reviews several recent incidents which resulted in deaths.