According to National Parks magazine, last year in Washington D.C., NPCA and other advocacy groups sued the Park Service in response to the Bush Administration's proposal to allow 540 snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park each day - nearly twice the daily average over the past five years. The rule would have degraded air quality, tripled the area where visitors hear noisy engines, and increased stress on wildlife struggling to survive harsh winter conditions.
In November the judge ruled against the Administration, and ordered the Park Service to come up with a new plan. Unfortunately, they did. They came up with their own number. 720 snowmobiles allowed in each day.
And to this I say again what?
The snowmobile industry immediately filled suit in Wyoming. The judge there (big surprise) ruled that Yellowstone should stick to this new plan of 720 snowmobiles until they can craft a more suitable one. There was hope that the park might cap its previous daily limit at 318 snowmobiles this winter, but Yellowstone's superintendent chose not to pursue a temporary plan at all, and defaulted instead to the upper limit of 720, a number that flies in the face of it's own science.
Apparently for the last ten years, more than half-a-million Americans have submitted comments on this issue, and four out of five favor snowcoaches over snowmobiles.
I'm trying to figure out why the Park Service did this. I can only come up with one reason. Money. More snowmobiles means more money, more people staying at the Old Faithful Lodge, more people passing through West Yellowstone and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and spending money. Been to any national park recently? All are in dire need of updated services, and their budgets are cut repeatedly.
But to request more than the Bush Administration did? That's just incredible to me. Although I've never actually snowmobiled in the Park - my husband has and says it's beautiful, I have been just outside the Park more than once. And since there is only an imaginary line that separates Yellowstone from the rest of the world, I would have to guess that snowmobiling just outside it on the thousands of trails already available in Wyoming and Idaho, is pretty close to the same as snowmobiling in the Park. AND WITH LESS RESTRICTIONS!
Thousands of people head to this part of the country each year to do some winter recreating. I don't want to stop them from doing that. Snowmobiling is a lot of fun for the entire family.
But... let's be reasonable!
Let's think of why Yellowstone was created in the first place. To provide a safe haven for the landscape and wildlife from the rest of the world. I believe the Park Service has let its money woes go to its head and forgotten a core value of it's own institution. To protect.
Current grade for the Park Service, F+.