Administration puts its money on national parks

Daniel B. Wheeler dwheeler at
Mon Jul 9 12:38:35 EST 2001

>From The Oregonian, July 7, 2001, p A1

Administration puts its money on national parks
When the Bush administration shifts attention from national forests,
environmental concerns may be the losers, analysts say

	The Bush administration has dedicated nearly $5 billion to repair and
upgarde national parks, but decaying recreation facilities in larger
and more heavily visited national forests will get no extra money for
such work.
	Administration officials say that's because national parks provide a
more direct connection to the nation's heritage and feature more
facilities than forests, which also support logging, mining and other
	But analysts say the better-known parks offer a more visible way to
curry environmental favor with a largely urban public that recognizes
national parks such as Crater lake and Mount Rainier before national
forests such as Mount Hood and Gifford Pinchot.
	"Clearly the administration has got to be conscious of that fact that
supporting visitor centers, making sure toilets flush in national
parks and hiring rangers to give talks is a visible way to get the
public's attention," said Chris Ingram of 411 Communications, a
Virginia politial research company.
	"Those are the kinds of things that make the public feel a greater
perception that something's being done to protect the environment,
because they are the sort of things people see and identify with," he
	Others suggest that by focusing his environmental attention on
pupluar national parks such as Sequoia and Yellowstone - already
off-limits to logging, mining and other development - Bush leaves
national forests for more utilitizrian uses championed by rural areas
that helped elect him.

It's easy to be green
	"It allows him to use parks to show off his greeness, because
everyone loves parks, but that does not interfere with his more
fough-and-tumble uses of thenational forests to appease industry,"
said Scott Silver of Wild Wilderness, a Bend-based group opposed to
commercialization of public lands.
	Bush's support for national parks reverse direction from the Clinton
administration, which had instead made forests the crux of its
environmental legacy by scaling back logging, setting aside roadless
areas and highlighting outdoor recreation as an increasingly vital use
of the forests.
	Mike Dombeck, U.S. Forest Service chief under president Clinton, had
touted nastional forests as filling "a unique niche of nature-based,
dispersed recreation," and as "the world's largest supplier of outdoor
	But pollsters say that national forests, managed by the Department of
Agriculture and open to commercial uses such as logging, are less
familiar to urban Americans who wield the nation's political weight.
More than half of those surveyed in a poll by Ingram's company said
they planned to vacation outdoors, Ingram said, and most commonly
mention national parks as their prime destinations.

Who care what's roadless?
	"People clearly see national parks as important places, and by
dedicating itself to protecting the parks, the Whie House counters
this perception that Republicans aren't very good stewards of the
environment," he said. "That gets their attention more than something
like roadless areas of national forests."
	John Wright of the Interior Department said parks were targeted for
the cash infusion because they "are windows on the past, breath-taking
landscapes that tell the story of where we've been and how we've got
there," in a way national forests do not.
	Although national forests may carry a lowe public profile, in Oregon
and Washington they host nearly 20 times as many recreational visitors
as national parks, according to federal figures. And national forests
in the region report a maintenance backlog of more than $52 million in
deteriorating trails, campgrounds and other facilities, a number that
escalates to $812 million nationwide.
	The total does not include an additional $8 billion maintenance
backlog for forest roads used not only for recreation but also for
logging and other purposes.
	(approximately 15 more paragraphs).

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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