IN ONE OF HIS FIRST ACTS as Interior secretary, Dirk Kempthorne took the gratifying step of tossing out a proposal that would have ruined our national parks. Gone is language that would have opened them to mining and grazing as well as increased commercial development, snowmobiling and off-road-vehicle use. Restored is the National Parks Service's commitment to conservation.
The parks were never intended for the mixed industrial and recreational uses commonly allowed on property under the Bureau of Land Management. Instead, their purpose is to preserve the nation's natural treasures as close to their original state as possible and to provide for recreation as long as it does not conflict with the main goal of conservation.
On Monday, by announcing that he had rejected a management plan drafted under his predecessor, Gale Norton, Kempthorne returned to that original vision for the parks. It was a welcome and somewhat surprising move from the novice secretary who was no tree-hugger as a senator and governor from Idaho. Not that the public should expect Kempthorne to denounce the idea of drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (he has long been a supporter) or move for new protections for old-growth trees in national forests (as governor, he favored the building of more roads in federal forests).