Interesting that you picked up on the 'conflicting statements' between the regulation (36 CFR 2.17(a)(3)) and the 2001 Management Policies. When NPS wrote the conflicting section 220.127.116.11 of the Management Policies, it put into writing its long-standing management policy which it had denied existed: that - regardless of the permit provisions of 36 CFR 2.17(a)(3) - NPS was not going to issue a permit.
You will also be interested to know that the 2001 Management Policies are now outdated. Through the support of its membership, the Alliance of Backcountry Parachutists successfully argued for change of Section 18.104.22.168 during the NPS' re-write of its 2006 Management Policies. The new controlling version of the Management Policies reads as follows:
Section 22.214.171.124 - Parachuting
Parachuting (or BASE jumping), whether from an aircraft, structure, or natural feature, is generally prohibited by 36 CFR 2.17(a)(3). However, if determined through a park planning process to be an appropriate activity, it may be allowed pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit.
The ABP accomplished several key changes in this re-write. First, it removes the outright prohibition from the management policies and places the decision-making authority BACK into the hands of the superintendents, whom we feel are best-suited to make management decisions affecting their parks, not NPS headquarters. Next, the ABP argued that the, "not an appropriate public use activity," language in the 2001 version (and a couple of the 2006 draft versions) automatically stigmatized the activity from the outset of any planning negotiations; this was subsequently changed in the final draft, as you can see. Finally, the Management Policies re-write afforded the ABP an opportunity to forge new relationships with policymakers from the top down and the bottom up. There is no doubt (to me, at least) that we are now significantly farther along the path toward gaining access than ever before.
I invite you to check out our Archives section on the ABP website: The Alliance of Backcountry Parachutists
There you will find many documents related to the fight for access and the history of access in context.
Hope this helps your essay. Contact me if you have any questions.
The Alliance of Backcountry Parachutists, Inc.