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EPA Critiques Yellowstone's Snowmobile Plan


    None other than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has come out against sections of the draft management plan for over-snow travel in Yellowstone. In a letter critiquing the park's "preliminary" preferred alternative, the EPA has voiced concerns over whether that proposal meshes with the Park Service's own Management Policies in terms of protecting both resources and humans.
    Specifically, the EPA told park officials in a nine-page letter that their preferred alternative appears to "fall short of the resource protections" mandated by the Management Policies in areas of wildlife, human health and visitor experience. Indeed, the agency took exception with the park's position that air pollution from snowmobiling and snow-coach travel would create "minor" impacts, and suggested that wording be changed to "moderate" or "major." And it suggested that the park view impacts to humans from air and sound pollution be considered at least "moderate," not "minor" as the park proposes.
    The park's currently preferred alternative calls for as many as 720 snowmobiles per day, even though the park's own scientific studies have identified resource problems at levels far below that.


Kurt, Another bit of interesting news out of Yellowstone today, also in the Billings Gazette, , talks about how there are a lot of projects currently being stalled due to lack of funds in part driven by the ever increasing high cost of construction in the area. One of the most important of these projects on hold is construction of a wastewater management plant to replace one that has risked major failure at any time for several years. I think this ties in also to the story about Mary's desire to bring in private funding to the parks. Yet, it's mostly private construction OUTSIDE the park, in this case, that's driving up the cost of maintenance inside the parks. This creates quite a vicious cycle potentially. In case after case in countries that have privatized public lands and industries as structural adjustments in return for World Bank funds, the cost of use has often increased exponentially, the environment has often been the worse for wear, and the public loses even nominal control over the resources in question. The other story by Mike Stark is very important for all parks, but it's also important not to take the lack of funding in isolation. Many of these projects at one point were funded; the funding is not adequate due to other factors, factors which seem almost bound to create more funding shortages and which will further tempt people to sell out to private industry, the same industry that taken as a whole that's driving up prices. This is often how Indians were squeezed from ownership of their land. If you look at Indian treaties, many of them were made to cancel debts that were caused by the economic leverage of Euroamerican society. In order to cancel those debts and receive food and services, Indians often turned over rights to much of their land. This created a further snowball effect, as the cause for the debt had not been actually removed (the solution of the U.S. government was assimilation, which was sometimes impossible anyhow), and the situation just repeated itself until all the ownership was in the hands of the United States. The parks face the same threat; projects that must be funded will be funded by the same forces that caused the need and the funding shortfall. It's very ominous, and if you want models, just look at Native Americans or look at issues with structural adjustment policies by the World Bank and IMF in countries throughout the globe.

Kurt-- Isn't it nice to know that there is at least one Federal agency that is concerned about the adverse effects of snowmobiling in Yellowstone and Tetons? Too bad it's not the National Park Service.

Let's see were the bottom line is when it comes to push and shove...I think the NPS will side even more with the snowmobiling industry. Corporate snowballing wins this one over the NPS... with much dire and unfortunate consequences to Yellowstones unique environment. The EPA has absolutely no teeth to their credibility or enforcement polices...thank Bush for that!

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