Editorial: Winter wonderland / Good news for national parks

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Environmental advocates typically expect bad news from the Bush administration, but a decision by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to scrap proposals to allow more snowmobiles and greater commercialization in the national parks appears to be just the reverse.

Mr. Kempthorne, little more than a month into the top job at Interior, has chosen to reiterate the National Park Service's traditional mandate to preserve and protect wildlife and cultural and historic resources.

The decision, just short of miraculous considering the administration's usual allegiance to the mechanized recreation industry, directly rejects a draft of pro-industry policies floated last year by political appointee Paul Hoffman, a deputy assistant interior secretary. Mr. Hoffman, a former chamber of commerce official in Cody, Wyo., who served as an aide to Vice President Dick Cheney when he represented that state in Congress, had sought to allow greater access to the parks for off-road vehicles, weaker air-quality standards and even religious references on signs.

Instead, Mr. Kempthorne has instructed the park service to favor the environment when it comes to balancing the access needs of more than 270 million visitors to facilities administered by the service each year.

Assuming the mandate holds -- environmental protection is low on the administration's priority list -- this restatement of policy is welcome news for this nation's vast and irreplaceable assemblage of national parks, and it's an excellent start for Mr. Kempthorne in his new job.


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