Sen. Salazar blasts proposed changes for national parks |

Sen. Salazar blasts proposed changes for national parks

DENVER ” A U.S. Senate subcommittee plans hearings on proposed changes that Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., believes will degrade national parks.

Salazar said Friday that changes proposed by the Interior Department would include allowing cell-phone towers, low-flying planes and the off-road use of all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles. He said park managers’ ability to prevent development would be limited.

Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee, has agreed to hold hearings in October on the proposals.

“The Interior Department’s draft changes seemingly would replace well-settled, protective principles with a policy of exploitation for short-term gain,” Salazar said.

In a letter to Craig Manson, assistant Interior secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, Salazar said the changes “would undo important park protections against overuse, noise and damage to the air, water, wildlife and scenery.”

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Interior Department spokesman John Wright said the suggestions would improve the way parks are managed to give visitors a better experience.

“It’s a work in progress. It will be open for public comment,” Wright said. “The changes would occur only where the sites can handle it.”

Dennis Huffman, former superintendent at the Colorado and Dinosaur national monuments and Great Sand Dunes National Park, said the proposals subvert the law by emphasizing multiple uses rather than protection of the resources.

A copy of the draft proposals, released to 15 park managers at a meeting last month, was obtained by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. Huffman is a member.

The plan mirrors one written under James Watt, Interior secretary in the Reagan administration. Gale Norton, current secretary and former Colorado attorney general, worked for Watt at the Denver-based Mountain States Legal Foundation, which advocates multiple use of public lands and limited government.

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