Lawmakers: Yellowstone Snowmobile Proposal At Odds With Science and Conservation
Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today contacted National Park Service Director Mary Bomar to voice his concern about the Administration's proposal to continue a controversial snowmobile policy that is at odds with scientific conclusions and park policies approved by Interior Secretary Dick Kempthorne.
Rep. Holt, joined by four bipartisan Members of Congress, wrote that the "proposal to ignore the best available protection" for the Park and instead "to expand snowmobile use erodes the foundation" of an unwavering emphasis on conservation of park resources and "contradicts Secretary Kempthorne's commitment to our parks."
The Administration's proposal would allow 720 snowmobiles per day to enter Yellowstone National Park. Current use averages 250 snowmobiles per day, and NPS scientists have determined that the increase in snowmobile traffic would erode recent improvements in air quality, increase noise pollution that has led to visitor complaints, and disturb Yellowstone's wildlife struggling to survive harsh winters. The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees last week voiced concern that Yellowstone's scientists have determined that in order to protect the park's wildlife, snowmobile traffic should be reduced, not increased, and this key scientific recommendation has been buried by the Administration.
The Administration's plan would also disregard stated commitment of the federal government to conservation. National parks enthusiasts across the country applauded Secretary of the Interior Dick Kempthorne's 2006 National Park Service Management Policies and his commitment that "When there is a conflict between conserving resources unimpaired for future generations and the use of those resources, conservation will be predominant."
Modern snowcoaches have proven increasingly popular with Yellowstone's visitors as a cheaper, warmer, and more learning-oriented alternative to snowmobiles. NPS and the Environmental Protection Agency have independently verified in three previous studies that increasing snowcoach access and phasing out snowmobile use would provide the best protection to Yellowstone's environment and wildlife and the health of visitors and employees.
"I am hopeful that Director Bomar will work with Congress to develop winter use policies for Yellowstone that reflect scientific consensus and the Administration's previous commitments that conservation must remain the keystone of stewardship in our national parks," said Rep. Holt.
The letter that the five Members of Congress sent to NPS Director Bomar comes on the heels of Bomar's March 1 testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee. A copy of the letter is available at http://holt.house.gov/pdf/bomar_march6th.pdf.