NPS Rescinds Director’s Order #100

The National Park Service (NPS) rescinded Director’s Order #100 (DO#100), known as Resource Stewardship for the 21st Century. This order was enacted in December 2016 by the previous administration in order to provide a framework for managing natural and cultural resources in our National Parks. It addressed climate change, engagement with Indigenous communities, and a new approach to addressing management problems by combining natural and cultural resource disciplines.

There were many values and positive changes outlined in DO#100, but it also institutionalized a risk management strategy called the “Precautionary Principle,” which was especially troubling to the climbing community. This principle would allow land managers to prohibit or restrict appropriate uses of public lands—like climbing—without a comprehensive analyses or input from stakeholders if “an activity raises plausible or probable threats of harm to park resources.”

Access Fund, alongside over 50 local climbing organizations and conservation organizations such as The Wilderness Society, advocated against including the Precautionary Principle provision in the order because it would stifle scientific inquiry and allow land managers to prohibit lesser-understood activities like climbing with no evidence, pending future studies to shed light on issues of concern. The “ban first, ask questions later” provision could have fast tracked climbing closures. Several members of the 113th Congress, including Senator Murkowski and Congressman Bishop, also criticized DO#100 and cited concerns with the Precautionary Principle.

Our hope was that the Director’s Order would be amended to exclude the contentious Precautionary Principle; however the Department of Interior (DOI) decided to rescind DO#100 on August 16, 2017. A brief memo (above) from the DOI regarding DO#100 provided no explanation for the rescission.