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House Votes to Cut Authority of Interior Secretary Over Parks

From Associated Press

The House voted Monday to reduce the secretary of the Interior’s authority over the national parks in what supporters of the bill said was an effort to keep politics out of the environmental decisions.

Rep. Bruce F. Vento (D-Minn.) said the bill also was designed to protect professional park employees who, he said, are being harassed and intimidated by political appointees.

Republican opponents of the bill, which was approved by voice vote, said it would be vetoed by President Bush. It still must go through the Senate before reaching the President’s desk.

A similar measure passed last year by the House was never acted on by the Senate.

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“The issue is to let the professionals use professional judgments,” said Vento, who led debate in favor of the bill.

The legislation would require the President to nominate a National Park Service director who would be confirmed by the Senate for a five-year term and answer to Congress. The Interior secretary would relinquish almost all power over the parks.

With one exception in the late 1960s, park service directors have always been professional park managers, either from the federal system or a state system.


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