Yellowstone officials have announced a series of four public meetings to explain and seek comment on their proposed winter-use plan for Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. What's interesting about the list is that three of the four meetings are in areas that one might assume are highly pro-snowmobile.
The meetings begin Wednesday, May 16th, in Cody, Wyoming, at the Cody Auditorium at 1240 Beck Avenue, followed by a meeting Thursday, May 17th, in West Yellowstone, Montana, at the West Yellowstone School at 411 North Geyser.
The third meeting is in St. Paul, Minnesota, on May 29th in the Bullard Auditorium at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory at 1225 Estabrook Drive, and the fourth is in Lakewood, Colorado, on May 30th at the City Lights Ballroom at the Sheraton Denver West at 360 Union Boulevard.
All four meetings are scheduled to run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The locations disappoint Bill Wade, chairman of the executive council of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, particularly since initially just two meetings were planned -- in Cody and West Yellowstone.
"One wonders if they could have found any other two places on earth that are more likely to generate comments sympathetic to local economy (rather than national interest) and snowmobile-supportive comments," says Mr. Wade. "Evidently, in response to pressures initiated by several concerned organizations, including the National Parks Conservation Association, The Wilderness Society, and the Coalition, they scurried around and scheduled Denver and St. Paul.
"While that offers some opportunity for more balanced input, I don’t think they have gone far enough and should schedule additional meetings at least in places like Salt Lake City, Seattle, San Francisco and maybe one location way back East. If we can have over 30 listening sessions all across the entire U.S. for the Centennial, we ought to be able to count on a reasonable number of appropriate locations for the public to comment in person on a precedent-setting issue of extremely high national significance like use of snowmobiles in the 'Mother National Park.'”
The Park Service back in March released a draft environmental impact statement that contained the agency's preferred winter-use plan, one that basically calls for nearly triple the daily number of snowmobiles that have been cruising through Yellowstone the past three winters.
The agency plans to have a final environmental impact statement, and record of decision, and final winter-use plan, in place before the start of next winter.
Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash says the meeting locations were determined on a variety of issues, including the logistics of getting to all four in a two-week period and the fact that a large portion of Yellowstone's winter visitors come from the upper Midwest.
If you can't attend one of the four meetings listed above, you can still submit comments on the winter-use proposals at this web site. Or you can go over to the left-hand column of my blog and click on the "Yellowstone Winter Use Plan" link to be taken to the comment site.
Public comments are due by midnight, June 5, 2007.