Proposal to change national-park rules stirring up controversy

National parks are cool and all, but you know what they really need? More people on cell phones! That — along with more snowmobiling and off-roading — could happen under revisions to National Park Service policy proposed by Bush appointee Paul Hoffman, deputy assistant secretary of the interior. His plan, leaked to the press this week, would cut back on environmental protections on numerous fronts, from allowing cell-phone towers to reducing air quality standards to permitting more mining and grazing. While the Department of Interior is trying to cast the proposal as a mere effort at dialogue, past and present National Park Service employees aren’t buying it. A group of 400 NPS retirees has announced a campaign to block the changes, and current directors are openly voicing dismay over them. Says J. T. Reynolds, superintendent of Death Valley National Park, “They are changing the whole nature of who we are and what we have been. I hope the public understands that this is a threat to their heritage.”