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REGIONAL REPORT ON NPCA'S WORK IN THE PARKS.

* ALASKA

At press time, the National Park Service was expected to publish new Denali National Park regulations in the Federal Register. The formal regulations will ban the use of snowmobiles for "traditional activities" as well as recreational uses in the wilderness core of Denali. The final rule has come as snowmobile enthusiasts have been threatening to ride into the park wilderness over the last several winters for recreation. Although the Park Service is acting within its authority to regulate motorized vehicle use that could potentially harm natural resources, the rule is expected to meet with congressional opposition and a lawsuit. The regulations address various other issues, including a cap on the number of vehicles per season allowed on the park road.

By banning snowmachine use in Denali's 2-million-acre wilderness, the Park Service is dosing a very small portion of public land. More than 95 per cent of public lands in southcentral Alaska are open to snowmachines.

* CENTRAL ROCKIES

The Mountain States Legal Foundation, a conservative group that defends individual property rights and works to limit government control of public lands, has filed suit against the National Park Service (NPS) over its management of Rainbow Bridge National Monument in Utah. The foundation filed a complaint in March with the U.S. District Court on behalf of the Natural Bridge and Arch Society, which claims that the agency's policy of asking people to refrain from walking under the 290-foot stone arch is unconstitutional. In 1995, the Park Service enacted a voluntary ban in response to American Indians' concerns that their ancient religious site was being desecrated by park visitors. NPS erected a low wall and posted a sign asking visitors to respect the site by remaining at a distance. However, the plaintiff alleges that the Park Service has gone beyond asking and has threatened to hand out citations to people who cross the barrier. Furthermore, they see the agency's defense of a particular religion as a violation of the First Amendment's separation of church and state. At press time, no trial date had been set, and NPS denied being in violation of the First Amendment.

* HEARTLAND

Proposed lead mining in the Mark Twain National Forest surrounding the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri again threatens the watershed. A last-minute provision inserted on the Interior appropriations bill last year put a moratorium on withdrawing mineral rights from the national forests, leaving the area open to several prospecting claims. NPCA fears that if exploratory drilling finds lead ore, the mines will likely be approved by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, which administer the land. The area's karst geology--an irregular system of limestone formations with sinks, caverns, and underground streams--makes the effects of potential mine runoff unpredictable.

* NORTHEAST

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) has inserted a provision in the Senate fiscal year 2001 Agricultural appropriations bill that would mandate the transfer of 327 acres of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service land to the Department of Treasury for the construction of a national firearms training center. The land was a Civil War battle site where more than 11,000 Union troops were captured and has been targeted for inclusion in a potential future expansion of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia. NPCA is concerned that the land would be transferred to Treasury prior to any public input or formal review of alternative sites, and that the agency has no land preservation mandate. Additionally, there is no detailed information on the need for the firearms facility, safety factors, or what Treasury intends to do with surplus land that is not used for the project.

TAKE ACTION: Contact Sen. Byrd (especially if you are from West Virginia) and ask him to withdraw the provision that would transfer Fish and Wildlife Service land to Treasury to build a firearms facility near Harpers Ferry Write to: The Hon. Robert Byrd, 311 Hart Senate Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20510. Send e-mail to senator_byrd@byrd.senate.gov or call him at 202-224-3954.

* NORTHERN ROCKIES

Less than two years after landmark concessions reform legislation was passed, Rep. Rick Hill (R) and Sen. Conrad Burns (R), both from Montana, are proposing bills that would undermine the law to benefit the Glacier National Park concessioner. The 1998 National Parks Omnibus Management Act established higher franchise fees, created a competitive selection process among businesses seeking to operate in the parks, and limited concessions contracts to 20 years. Hill and Conrad's legislation extends the concessioner's contract to up to 40 years and expands the park's operating season so that the concessioner could finance and complete major structural renovations of the historic lodges. Extending the season raises serious wildlife concerns, as several of the historic hotels are located in critical winter and spring ranges. Both increasing the number of available rooms in Glacier and expanding the operating season would violate Glacier's recently adopted general management plan.

* PACIFIC

A California company has proposed a project that would pump water from an aquifer under Mojave National Preserve to accommodate the growing need for water in Southern California. The company, Cadiz, Inc., and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California are pursuing plans to create a water storage program that would divert water from the Colorado River into the aquifer during years of heavy rainfall and drain water from the aquifer in years of drought. The company argues that the 30,000 acre-feet of water estimated to be removed each year would not harm the desert plants and animals that rely on the water source, but the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Environmental Protection Agency disagreed. Comments submitted by the agencies on a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) said the hydrological documents were seriously flawed. A supplemental EIS is in progress to address the questions. Specifically, the Park Service is concerned that the project may deplete natural springs and seeps on which many species, including the desert bighorn, depend.

* SOUTHEAST

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has backed away from a verbal agreement with the National Park Service to conduct a regional transportation study for the Blue Ridge Parkway. Instead, the state has said it will only commit to an analysis of technical road design--a step that may have limited results on protecting the park.

The state has placed increasing pressure on the National Park Service to accommodate growing development outside the park by building new roads and paving existing gravel roads that bisect the park.

A regional transportation study would analyze long-range needs and the accompanying sprawl associated with road development in the counties that encompass the Blue Ridge Parkway. To date, the state, has taken a piecemeal approach to road planning. NPCA believes that the: study is imperative to protecting the Blue Ridge Parkway's scenic views, which attract millions of visitors and valuable tourist dollars to the region each year.

TAKE ACTION: Ask North Carolina Governor James Hunt to join the National Park Service in a regional transportation study to address future congestion and development sprawl around the park. Write to: James B. Hunt, Jr., Office of the Governor, 20301 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-0301. Visit NPCA's web site to send an electronic letter NPCA's North Carolina members may call the governor at 800-662-7952.

* SOUTHWEST

A coalition of eight conservation groups, led by NPCA, has proposed a new national monument to protect lands adjacent to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico and Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas. The proposed Capitan Reef National Monument would protect up to 150,000 acres of New Mexico's wild landscape.

The proposal recommends that the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service maintain management over the lands but grants the National Park Service an advisory role. The new monument would allow traditional uses such as hunting and grazing, thus addressing the main objections from local residents who fear loss of access. The Forest Service has already proposed a mineral withdrawal for about 27,000 acres in the Guadalupe Mountains, which would prohibit new mineral development for the next 20 years. National monument status would further protect the area's many world-class, extensive caves.

In addition, the proposal would allow for improved interagency cooperation for better long-term ecosystem protection. It would also encourage better management of wildlife habitat, cultural resources, watersheds, and more unified fire management policies.

TAKE ACTION: Write to the Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, and New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman and ask them to support the establishment of Capitan Reef National Monument. Write: The Hon. Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20240; The Hon. Dan Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture, 14th and Independence Ave,, S.W., Washington, DC 20250; and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, 703 Hart Building, Washington, DC 20510,

NPCA REGIONAL DIRECTORS:

ALASKA: Chip Dennerlein

CENTRAL ROCKIES: Mark Peterson

HEARTLAND: Lori Nelson

NORTHEAST: Eileeen Woodford

NORTHERN ROCKIES: Tony Jewett

PACIFIC: Brian Huse

SOUTEAST: Don Barger

SOUTHWEST: Dave Simon
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Author:Daerr, Elizabeth G.
Publication:National Parks
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2000
Words:1493
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