HOLT LEADS BIPARTISAN EFFORT TO URGE NATIONAL PARKS SERVICE DIRECTOR TO HONOR CONSERVATION COMMITMENT ON SNOWMOBILE USE AT YELLOWSTONE
Congressional Members from 27 States Voice Objections to Impending Decision to Disregard Scientific Findings and Increase Daily Snowmobile Use
Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) and 85 other Members of Congress today wrote National Park Service (NPS) Director Mary Bomar to voice their opposition to a pending decision to significantly increase daily use of snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. The proposal by Yellowstone National Park to permit 540 snowmobiles per day would allow increased air and noise pollution from snowmobiles and ignore recommendations to managers by the agency's wildlife scientists to limit use. Yellowstone's average snowmobile has been 250 per day for the last four winters.
The letter echoes an appeal made earlier this year to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne by seven former Directors of the National Park Service who oversaw protection of the National Park System for seven presidents from 1964 to 2001. The bipartisan congressional letter, signed by Members from every region of the country, expresses concern that NPS Director Bomar appears poised to break a pledge she made in testimony to Congress to emphasize conservation of national parks. Over $10 million in taxpayer funded studies have repeatedly shown that conservation of Yellowstone requires the phase out of snowmobile usage.
Holt and his colleagues wrote: "The agency's studies have repeatedly demonstrated that the best way to protect the health and safety of Yellowstone's visitors, staff, wildlife, and national resources while promoting more affordable and educational access, is to phase out snowmobile use entirely and increase public access by modern, multi-passenger, guide-driven snowcoaches.
The Management Policies make clear that this is the choice you should make in Yellowstone to uphold the conservation emphasis that you have said is of paramount importance. We expect you to live up to your commitment."
Holt and his colleagues note that scientific findings verified by the National Park Service and independently corroborated by the Environmental Protection Agency have demonstrated that adopting the proposal to allow 540 snowmobiles per day in the Park would undermine improvements in the health and clarity of Yellowstone's air; add to noise problems which, even with an average of 250 snowmobiles per day, have exceeded Yellowstone's standards and compromised visitor enjoyment; and go in the opposite direction recommended to Yellowstone's managers by the agency's wildlife scientists, who advised that traffic be capped at recent averages or eliminated entirely to protect the Park's animals from increased disturbance and harassment.
On March 1, 2007, in her first appearance before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, Bomar assured Congress of her strong belief in a conservation-first priority found throughout National Park Service Management Policies. The letter to Bomar states:
"You testified that when managers at Yellowstone National Park neared a decision later in 2007 regarding the issue of winter access in the country's first national park, your unequivocal intention was to ensure that these policies would be upheld and that scientific findings bearing on the best available protection of Yellowstone's air quality, natural soundscapes and wildlife would be applied."
The National Park Service is expected to release a final Yellowstone decision in early November. The full congressional letter is available online at http://holt.house.gov/pdf/Yellowstone_letter.pdf.