WASHINGTON — The Interior Department on Monday reversed a controversial proposed national parks policy that would have allowed more use of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles and put less emphasis on conservation.
A draft of the new policy stresses that when there is a conflict between preserving and using natural and historical places, conservation will remain the parks' predominant job.
"That is the heart of these policies and the lifeblood of our nation's commitment to care for these special places and provide for their enjoyment," said Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.
The new parks management policy, which is to become final in three weeks, is one of the first moves for Kempthorne, who was installed less than a month ago.
Critics, including several members of Congress, had chided former Interior Secretary Gale Norton and the National Park Service for proposing wide-ranging park management changes they said would benefit commercial and recreation interests at a cost to conservation.
The new draft also says the parks should aim for the highest clean air standard, preserve their solitude and keep lands eligible for wilderness designations free from snowmobiles, ATVs and other intrusion.
Kristen Brengel, a lobbyist for the Wilderness Society, described the new policy draft as a good, hopeful possibility.
"Now Kempthorne will have his first opportunity to show whether he can be a true steward of the national parks," Brengel said.