REGIONAL REPORT ON NPCA'S WORK IN THE PARKS.
Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski (R) has added to the 2001 Interior Appropriations bill a provision that directs the National Park Service (NPS) to work with the state of Alaska to study options for campgrounds, trails, and visitor facilities along the Stampede Trail in Denali National Park and Preserve. Because the 80-mile Stampede Trail, an old mining road, is only passable by car for about eight miles, any facilities suggested by the study would necessitate a new transportation corridor. That route would likely come in the form of the proposed northern road or railroad through proposed wilderness to Wonder Lake in the heart of the park. The senator has made many attempts to get the controversial development project through Congress and failed. NPS has indicated its opposition to a northern access route. Cost estimates for the project are $100 million for a road and $200 million for a railroad.
TAKE ACTION: Contact your senators to urge them to oppose the Stampede Trail and keep the Interior Appropriations bill free of other anti-environmental riders. The Hon. --, U. S. Senate, Washington, DC 20510. To find the name or e-mail address of your senator, go to www.senate.gov. To send an e-mail through NPCA's web site, go to www.npca.org
* CENTRAL ROCKIES
At press time, the Senate was expected to pass a bill that allows the exchange of 106,000 acres of Utah state lands for an equal number of federal acres that could prove more profitable for the state. The bill has already passed the House. The state acreage consists of scattered parcels that are surrounded by potential federal wilderness. Sponsored by Utah Rep. Jim Hansen (R), the legislation secures more profitable lands to benefit the state's educational system in exchange for state lands that would complete federal wilderness areas. NPCA and the Grand Canyon Trust (GCT) are concerned with the swap because it transfers 315 acres of federal land outside the entrance to Zion National Park to the state. That land was believed to be protected as the entry to a scenic corridor meant to preserve the historic viewshed and cultural heritage on the west side of the park. The trade to the state guarantees that the land will be developed. GCT will be part of a planning effort to make the development environmentally compatible with its surroundings.
Despite a widespread ban issued by the Park Service this year on personal watercraft, recreation interests are pushing to keep the Missouri National Recreational River in South Dakota and Nebraska open to the machines. Rep. John Thune (R-S.Dak.) has pressured the Park Service to conduct a 90-day comment period to hear from local constituents. The comment period is scheduled to close September 30.
TAKE ACTION: Write Superintendent Paul Hedren asking him to uphold the ban on personal watercraft. Remind him that noisy, pollution-generating personal watercraft are incompatible with the mission of a national park unit, which is to protect water, wildlife, and natural sites and sounds. Address: P.O. Box 591, O'Neill, NE 68763-0591.
The National Park Service (NPS) may renovate a naval site at Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park if the military leaves the base in 2002 as anticipated. The 100-acre base was built in the 1930s in exchange for naval lands taken when Acadia was established. Only a portion of the land is within the park's boundaries, but more than 50 buildings exist, including a medical building, dormitories, and a recreation facility. The NPS planning team is considering options that would maintain some economic opportunities for local residents who are currently employed on the base but would also support the park's mission of environmental protection. Some suggestions offered at a local public meeting: using the buildings as a university extended science campus with a focus of marine studies or renting the buildings to an outdoor school or nature camp for disabled or inner-city youth. The planning team is accepting public comment and new ideas for possible redevelopment of the site.
TAKE ACTION: Please write to the NPS planning team and ask them to support low-impact development options that are consistent with national park preservation. Write to: Sarah Peskin or John Kelly, NPS Boston Planning Team Office, 15 State St., Boston, MA 02109.
* NORTHERN ROCKIES
An inholder has begun bottling water from a well on private property inside Grand Teton National Park and selling it commercially. In June, the Halpin family received permission from the Teton County commissioners to begin pumping up to 18,000 gallons of water a day, and the Park Service issued a special-use permit to allow trucks to haul the water through the park. Profits after cost from the project will go to the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, which plans to use the money to build a new visitor center in Moose, Wyoming, and renovate some historic buildings, among other projects. NPCA and the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, a local environmental group, oppose the project. Of particular concern to the groups is the commercialization and sale of a park resource. For more information, go to NPCA's web site at www.npca.org.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has approved legislation that authorizes the sale of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land near Mojave National Preserve in California to build an airport to serve Las Vegas, Nevada. The final version does not require formal environmental review before the land transaction takes place; however, changes were made to increase public input before construction of any airport facility. Improvements include: establishing the Department of the Interior as a joint lead agency in any environmental study; language that enables the land to revert to BLM if it is found that an airport should not be built there; establishing a fund that can be used for the acquisition of private inholdings within Mojave; and requiring that an environmental review must address any potential impacts on the purposes for which Mojave National Preserve was created. At press time, the Senate had not yet scheduled a vote on the bill.
Drawn by clean waters and spectacular coral reefs, an increasing number of visitors are traveling to Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. But increased visitation is taking a toll on the island environment. To curb further destruction, the National Park Service is considering several plans to alter visitor use. NPCA supports Alternative C, which establishes a Research Natural Area or "no-take" zone where all fishing would be prohibited and sets limits on visitation. The alternative also requires divers, snorkelers, and other visitors to receive instruction on how to avoid harming the fragile coral reefs.
TAKE ACTION: Please write to Florida Senators Connie Mack (R),and Bob Graham (D) and Rep. Peter Deutsch (D) asking them to support the Dry Tortugas plan amendment. Ask them to support visitation limits and a "no-take" zone so that at least one area of the park is completely protected for marine creatures. For their addresses, go to NPCA's web site at www.npca.org
* SOUTHWEST NPCA is expected to release this fall a study of the economic and visual benefits of removing a state road that runs through the middle of Glorieta Battlefield at Pecos National Historical Park in New Mexico. Computer-generated pictures will show how the park will be transformed if the Park Service were to replace the road with a pedestrian path. Removing the road is expected to increase visitation to the battlefield, expanding opportunities for local businesses and enhancing the park's opportunities for interpretation.