No one should be surprised that America's national parks are becoming more and more nature preserves where the general public is not invited and not welcome.
Working hand-in-hand with the big environmental lobbies, the Interior Department -- through the National Park Service and other federal agencies -- has restricted more and more public access to the national park system.
It's a shame. The parks were created under a law that set out two missions: ''to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein'' and ''to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.''
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, chairman of the National Parks and Public Lands subcommittee of the House Resources Committee, says the Park Service has embraced the first part of the mission and downgraded the second. ''I have been on this committee for 20 years,'' he says, ''and I have seen the systematic closure of a number of customary uses by people wanting to enjoy our national parks.''
The National Park Service, he says, ''has been moving to restrict and otherwise limit public access to our national parks. ... Customary uses such as snowmobiles, personal water craft, along with normal vehicular travel, have been restricted as users have sought to enjoy the National Park System, just like everybody else.''
His comments strike a particular chord in Alaska, a favorite target of the Park Service bureaucrats and their environmental cohorts.
The squeeze to keep people out of the parks has really been on up here. Snowmobile access has been denied. Helicopter flights over parklands have been targets of constant Park Service anti-aircraft flak. Vehicle traffic has been strangled. Any kind of motorized access, in fact, is bad in the narrow view of the Park Service people and the elitists of the Sierra Club and other like-minded lobbies.
In testimony before Rep. Don Young's Resources Committee, the situation was fittingly summed up last week by Edward Moreland, speaking for Americans for Responsible Recreational Access. He put it this way:
''Indeed, in the past year a disturbing trend has developed within our land agencies pitting the federal government against those who recreate responsibly on public lands. Federal agencies such as the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Park Service have issued edicts and management plans without the benefit of true public involvement. ... It seems the only groups afforded real attention by the current administration are those who can be classified as environmental extremists and anti-access.''
Well, we've known that in Alaska for a long time.
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