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Yellowstone's Snowmobile Public Meetings


    While most of the attention on national parks has been focused this week on the roll-out of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne's report on the Centennial Initiative, there was other news involving parks.
    Yellowstone officials, for instance, traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota, and Denver, Colorado, to host public meetings on their snowmobile plans for both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
    Bill Wade of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, who attended both meetings, tells me the input those two cities provided was decidedly anti-snowmobile. In St. Paul, he tells me, about 45 people turned out. Of those, 30-35 commented and those comments "were very heavily focused" on the snow coach-only option, said Mr. Wade.
    The Denver meeting, meanwhile, attracted 85-90 people and of the 56 or 57 people who made statements, "all but seven of those supported the snow coach-only option," he added.
      “The Park Service and Yellowstone planners are getting a pretty heavy earful of what the public believes should be done in Yellowstone, and now it will be interesting to see how much support they give to the overall public preference," Mr. Wade said.

     Now, to balance things, know that there were two earlier meetings, one in Cody, Wyoming, and another in West Yellowstone, Montana. The majority of comments from those two communities endorsed the Park Service's preferred alternative calling for more than 700 snowmobiles per day in Yellowstone.
    Now, with the public meetings completed, you might say the Park Service in general and Yellowstone officials in particular are in a bit of a pickle over this snowmobile debate.
    First of all, Yellowstone's own research says the park's resources, wildlife, employees and visitors are better off with fewer, if any, snowmobiles in the park. That's a position the scientific community has taken ever since President Bush tossed out the ban the Clinton administration tried to implement.
    Secondly, public opinion overwhelmingly opposes the park's endorsement of snowmobiles. According to Mr. Wade, more than 25,000 comments have been received on the winter-use plan, and a large majority have voiced support for the snow coach-only option.
    Now, what should prove particularly vexing to the Park Service is that the volume of comments on the snowmobile issue dwarfs those the agency received on the Centennial Initiative by more than 4 to 1. After all, Secretary Kempthorne's report to President Bush on the initiative talked about Forging A Shared Vision, a phrase built upon more than 40 listening sessions throughout the country and some 6,000 comments from 4,500 people.
    If such a relatively small pool of Americans can carry such clout in putting together a blueprint for commemorating the Park Service's centennial nine years down the road, what does it say if the Park Service ignores the sentiments contained within the more than 25,000 comments it received on the snowmobile issue?
    "So far (the public) seems to be very strongly telling the National Park Service that snowmobiles don't have any place in Yellowstone, as has been the message three times previously," said Mr. Wade.
    If the Park Service ignores that sentiment and signs off on its preferred alternative in support of snowmobile use in Yellowstone, what does that say of the sections of Mr. Kempthorne's report that say not only that (S)tewardship and science will guide decisions but that (T)he National Park Service will be environmental leaders to preserve the quality of parks for our children's children



Yeah but as everybody knows, most of those folks makin' statements have the time to go to the meetings 'cause they don't have jobs!!! The typical lazy liberal either there on their own accord or being paid a pittance by some envirowhacko organization! The few good hard-workin' folks there speaking on behalf of winter snowmobile enthusiasts have to take time off work...but speak for a greater number of people. The Interior boss is well aware of this fact...believe me!

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