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A series of proposed revisions of National Park policy has created a furor among present and former park officials who believe the changes would weaken protections of natural resources and wildlife while allowing an increase in commercial activity, snowmobiles and off-road vehicles.
National Park Service employees warn that the changes, which were proposed by the Department of the Interior and are undergoing a Park Service review, would fundamentally alter the agency's primary mission.
"They are changing the whole nature of who we are and what we have been," said J.T. Reynolds, superintendent of Death Valley National Park. "I hope the public understands that this is a threat to their heritage. It threatens the past, the present and the future. It's painful to see this."
The potential changes would allow cellphone towers and low-flying tour planes and would liberalize rules that prohibited mining, according to Bill Wade, former superintendent at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia...
The changes are the brainchild of Paul Hoffman, who oversees the Park Service and was appointed deputy assistant secretary of the Interior in January 2002.
Hoffman came to the Park Service after serving as director of the Chamber of Commerce in Cody, Wyo. He had previously served as Wyoming state director for then-U.S. Rep. Dick Cheney from 1985 to 1989.