The other day I mentioned that winter must not be far off because most Yellowstone facilities were shutting down for a brief break before reopening in mid-December for the winter season. Well, another sign that winter is around the corner is the return of heated rhetoric over whether snowmobiles should be allowed in Yellowstone.
Brand spanking new in cyberspace is a column by Jack Welch, president of the pro-motorized recreation group known as the Blue Ribbon Coalition, that ratchets up the rhetoric over the snowmobile issue. While much of the column is given over to updating snowmobilers on the status of the latest environmental impact statement examining snowmobiles in the park, Welch doesn't depart without taking a few pot-shots at those who don't think Yellowstone is the right place for snowmobiles.
"We calculate the radical anti-access groups have spent thousands of dollars in a public relations campaign, spreading lies and misinformation about our people. Thousands more were spent on lawyers making false and misleading claims to judges in far away places," he writes. "This battle is not over.
"The ultimate goal of the anti-access crowd is to drastically reduce all human use and enjoyment of our national parks and recreation areas. These people believe we are 'loving our parks to death' and they will not stop at wintertime access. This issue is a critical one for all recreationists who value access to America's public lands.
"The fact that Yellowstone remains open this coming season represents one of the most profound victories over the extreme environmental movement in our lifetime."
Frankly, I didn't realize that "the ultimate goal of the anti-access crowd is to drastically reduce all human use and enjoyment of our national parks and recreation areas." Of course, I suppose one could say that the motorized recreation
crowd won't rest until it can gun its snowmobiles and PWCs across every
inch of public land in the country.
And who is the "anti-access crowd"? I thought those behind a snowmobile ban in Yellowstone and Grand Teton simply wanted to protect the environment, wildlife, park visitors and park employees from air, water and noise pollution.
Beyond that, access to Yellowstone won't vanish if snowmobiles are banned. Visitors still will be able to take snowcoaches into the park if they don't want to ski or snowshoe in, something I've done while staying in West Yellowstone, Montana.
Yes, with the latest EIS process expected to produce a draft document come March, you can expect the rhetoric to be turned up in the coming months as both sides, pro and con, rally their troops in a bid to influence the document's recommendation.
What will be hard to do is separate fact from fiction. Both sides point to polls that show most Americans either do, or don't, want snowmobiles in the parks...which goes to show you how the phrasing of questions can affect the outcome of public opinion surveys.
What will be important for one and all to do is examine the studies and research that have been conducted on snowmobiling in the park. Already concerns have been voiced about the hearing impacts associated with snowmobiles. And then, of course, is the Park Service's responsibility, as outlined in its Management Policies, "to promote a safe and healthful environment for visitors and employees.”
But sometimes all that doesn't matter to groups such as the Blue Ribbon Coalition, which last winter told a Wyoming reporter that it would be "totally ludricrous" for the Park Service to allow only snowmobiles with "best available technology" into Grand Teton National Park.
I wonder how long ago the group held that opinion in relation to snowmobiling in Yellowstone?