The American people can send loud and clear messages to the government, and when they do, officials are often responsive. Last August, a draft of policies and rules for National Parks was leaked that emphasized commercialization, tourism, and motorized recreation within the parks. In response, more than 50,000 people commented on the proposed changes in the management style of the National Park Service, including a petition from Care2 and The Wilderness Society that was signed by over 11,000 people. These outcries put an end to the possibility of any radical changes.
On June 13, Interior Secretary Dirk Kemthorne announced a new draft of rules consistent with the 90-year history of policies that prioritize preserving national parks in an unimpaired state for our enjoyment and the enjoyment of future generations. Steven Martin, deputy director of the National Park Service, said that public comments "repeatedly stressed the vitality and relevance" of the 1916 act that created the National Park Service and that the act "must be honored." The 1916 law states that the "fundamental purpose" of the park service is "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife." With a flood of comments, the public made clear to decision-makers that the central goal of protecting the national parks was extremely important.
Through this experience, Americans now realize not only that they cannot take their parks for granted, but how powerful they can be within our democracy when they have a consensus opinion and take action.