You are here

NPS' Washington Headquarters Supports Snowmobiles in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Snowmobiles, March 2000; Photo, Jim Peaco NPS

Snowmobiles & exhaust at West entrance in the winter on Presidents Day weekend. NPS photo, Jim Peaco, March 2000.

The decision by Yellowstone National Park officials that up to 540 snowmobiles a day should be allowed in the park come winter is supported by the National Park Service's Washington headquarters, which more than likely means another round of court battles is in the offing.

Dan Wenk, the Park Service's deputy director, during an interview with the Traveler, said the headquarters office was consulted by Yellowstone officials before they released their preferred alternative in the Final Environmental Impact Statement late last month.

"We were fully briefed before that went out," said Mr. Wenk, who was in Park City, Utah, to appear before the annual Ranger Rendezvous of the Association of National Park Rangers. "We were briefed and we're in support."

Get the Flash Player to heard this audio.

This coming winter Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks will operate under temporary winter-use rules that allow up to 720 snowmobiles a day into Yellowstone. However, during the past three years actual snowmobile use in the park has ranged between 250 and 300 machines daily. During that span of time, scientific research conducted in the park documented in detail that increasing the number of snowmobiles above 250 per day would add significantly to noise and air pollution problems that already exceed park thresholds and would carry additional impacts on the park's wildlife.

Plus, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the research, allowing more than 250 snowmobiles per day into Yellowstone could compromise human health. Here's what the EPA told Yellowstone planners this past June: "Today, vehicle numbers are reduced by two-thirds compared to historic use, resulting in improved air quality and soundscapes as well as reduced wildlife disturbance."

Beyond the scientific data, which provide enough ammunition for park officials to ban recreational snowmobiling in Yellowstone, there's been huge public backlash against snowmobiles in the park.

Seven of the eight surviving former directors of the NPS wrote to Secretary Kempthorne in March, 2007, saying that allowing snowmobile use to increase from significantly reduced levels "would radically contravene both the spirit and letter of the 2006 Management Policies" and "would undercut the park's resurgent natural conditions."

The park's decision also once again ignores the vast number of people who took the time to comment on the draft plan. Seventy-three percent of those commenting on the two parks' proposed winter-use plan favored ending snowmobile use in Yellowstone. Ninety-four percent agreed that snowmobiling damages the natural soundscape of the park.

Notwithstanding the prospect of additional legal wrangling over this issue, the departure of the Bush administration could very likely lead to another change in policy, particularly if the Democrats take the White House.


How can anyone support Washington after reading this article? Mr. Wank hides the fact that he and the agency has succumbed to interest pressure and the agency has (again) disregarded science in favor of dollars.

The park's decision also once again ignores the vast number of people who took the time to comment on the draft plan.

When a public entity is no longer accountable to the public, it's time to start looking at alternatives to political systems. The NPS ignores the public, but so many people remain faithful to the bureaucratic, calcified, parasitic system. When will people wake up and demand something different, something better? How long will government ignore its citizens desires before its citizens force the government to listen?

Reform the National Park Service!

So long as we can shoot them from the air, I'm all for it. ;-)

PS -- I'm just joking -- I would only use paintballs...

Frank his name is Wenk not Wank, though I must admit the latter works much better than the former in the current context.

As to your question about the continued faith most supporters of the national parks place in an organization that openly ignores the public it supposedly serves is a good question. I think part of the answer lies in the government education most citizens receive which stresses conformity and obedience to their tax funded masters. After all the government tells us that they are killing and maiming Iraqis to bring them freedom, testing bombs in Nevada to promote peace and allowing the slaughter of habituated bears in Alaska to help maintain a healthy population. Why should their most recent decision on snowmobiles in Yellowstone be any different? Is anyone really surprised? Newspeak is no longer just in the pages of Orwell's 1984.

Kids today are taught in public schools that self-interested independent action is evil and selfish while coerced collective effort is always for the benefit of all, even when we don't understand why our masters blatantly ignore the collective will. They are further taught that they must eventually come to the enlightened realization that all government action is intrinsically good and that they must submit regardless of their own selfish motives and desires.

The screwy logic of the current political management of the parks is best summed up at the end of the piece: "Notwithstanding the prospect of additional legal wrangling over this issue, the departure of the Bush administration could very likely lead to another change in policy, particularly if the Democrats take the White House."

Is this any way to run our national treasures?

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
-----H.L. Mencken

This type of callus in your face attitude, "it's my way or the highway" is a typical response that the Bush administration shoves down are throats. It's this kind of response that's been handed down to every govermental agency from the White House and down to the NPS: damn public opinion, and the general consensuses, and the fervor outcry. This total disregard for the holistic health of Yellowstone National Park during it's winter time use is another callus example-- it's all about money. Nothing more! Yes, Mr. Secretary Kempthorne, pacify the American public with your false rhetoric and bombast half lies. Your like the rest of them in the Bush & Cheney administration, talking through both sides of your mouth and with no accountability.

Let's not shift the focus's NOT the George and Dick Show that created this mess. It's been EVERY administration in modern times. The Washington flag wavers have, without exception, continued to disregard their constituents when it comes to the issue of public lands.

The last time folks in this country stood up to an unjust government, the slogan was "no taxation without representaion". Since that time, government has insulated itself from the masses and what was once a system to govern the masses has now become a system to rule them. The shameless and total contempt that our elected officials have demonstrated for the constituency in our land is infuriating. I honestly can't see anyone being duped by political rhetoric after the being first-hand witnesses to the actions and policies of those who have spoken so plainly by their deeds. Whatever happened to the 60's mantra, "Question authority" and all the demonstrations against politcal tyranny? Oh yeah, the leaders of those groups are now sitting in various political offices, aren't they? I guess tyranny abroad is the only one worthy of fighting against.

But hey, after all, it's only the general public, and a bunch of goofy environmental scientists who were hired by the government to conduct an environmental impact study that are upset. It's not like it's anybody who's actually IMPORTANT. And this decision was, after all, only made by a group of appointed people who were placed in charge of the best usage of our environment and the future of our national treasures by the very people we elected to public office, largely based on a series of lies bandied about during the course of a political campaign, all of which have been conveniently forgotten by those who uttered the words. So it's not as though there is any chance that someone is actually culpable. The core values of the current political system, "successful insulation from the issues without accepting any responsibility or blame so that it can't be proven that I lied, and therefore I remain the best person to guide you, the ignorant masses, throught these most difficult times" remain intact!!!

Having said that, only a true, purest in form idiot would allow for such blatant disregard of the data and the public's opinions. But I'll wager the farm that he is a richer idiot by doing so. Can I borrow some paintballs which are sure to come back empty? And I'm ruling out a ground offensive...........don't want to become too predictable or one dimensional. Look what happened to the Packers Sunday night. If those Bears can win one, I would hope the Katmai Bears could follow suit. Maybe they need a new coach?

Here is my sled this winter!:
What ya'll think?

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide