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Conservation Groups Will Head to Court Over Yellowstone Snowmobile Decision


A day after the Park Service announced its decision on snowmobiles in Yellowstone, six conservation groups said they would challenge the decision in court. NPS Photo by Jim Peaco.

Six conservation groups are condemning the National Park Service's decision regarding snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park, saying it goes against the core values of the national park system. To right that wrong, the groups said they would seek judicial relief.

In a joint press release, The Wilderness Society, National Parks Conservation Association, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council, Winter Wildlands Alliance, and the Sierra Club said the decision to allow as many as 540 snowmobiles a day into Yellowstone goes against the Park Service's own scientific studies and recommendations and will lead to "noise, dirtier air and frequent disturbance of wildlife."

"That choice ignores the National Park Service’s overarching mandate to give highest priority to conservation of national park resources," the organizations said, adding that they hoped Congress would exercise its oversight authority over the Park Service.

“The past four seasons have shown that Yellowstone’s winter visitors are increasingly embracing modern snow coaches and the health of the park has improved because of it,” said Amy McNamara of the Greater
Yellowstone Coalition. “The National Park Service’s decision makes a U-turn on that progress and will lead to unacceptable impacts in our first national park.”

In their release the groups noted that the Park Service disclosed in a study accompanying its decision that allowing 540 snowmobiles into Yellowstone each day will dramatically expand-to 63 square miles-the portion of the park where visitors can expect to hear snowmobile noise during more than half of the visiting day. That would be a three-fold increase from the current portion of the park where noise intrudes on the visitor’s experience during at least half the day.

The groups also noted that in its Final Environmental Impact Study accompanying its decision, the Park Service notes that Congress established the National Park Service in 1916 in part due to a recognition that the American people “wanted places to go that were undisturbed and natural and which offered a retreat from the rigors and stresses of everyday life.”

“National Parks are supposed to receive the highest level of resource protection for the benefit of wildlife and future generations of visitors. The Park Service’s plan undermines this conservation commitment to the American public in its National Park System. This decision would set a dangerous and unacceptable precedent for the entire National Park System and that is why we will continue to work for a better decision,” said the NPCA's Tim Stevens.


What I believe to be *the* central problem with this issue is it's become a political football and so, as the scientists themselves admit, science is not the guiding light on this matter.

As for whether it can be demonstrated that snowmobiles are impairing the park for future generations, as opposed to simply impacting it today, good point. But the science certainly is clear on the impacts that currently are occurring.

Regarding impacts of snowmobiles vs those of summer auto traffic, I believe the current research has proved that snowmobile traffic, at its current level, far exceeds in emissions what the summer traffic does.

I also think it's accepted and understood that parks are to be enjoyed, and so no one is about to talk about banning all traffic from Yellowstone. Rather, the idea is to minimize as much as possible the impacts from existing traffic. In the case of winter use, that can be done by phasing out recreational snowmobile access in favor of snowcoach traffic, which has fewer impacts.

There also are options for reducing summer traffic loads -- namely public transportation in some form -- but the political gumption currently appears to be lacking for such a move.

Alas; "unimpaired for future generations" is a mighty limp criterion. It's not much of a stretch to say that lots of sustainable yield activities (including hunting, fishing, trapping, selective logging, and many kinds of gathering, just to name a few) would leave a park unimpaired for future generations.

I'd be curious to know how this lawsuit is proceeding. I think the environmental groups would have a fairly hard time with this case for two reasons:
- it will be hard to establish that snowmobile use in Yellowstone is leaving Yellowstone impaired for future generations
- any argument that did establish that snowmobile use in Yellowstone is leaving Yellowstone impaired for future generations would probably also not look favorably upon the number of automobiles that can be found on the Great Circle Road on any given day, and I think that there are very few people who are currently willing to attack automobile visitation to Yellowstone

It would seem that the conservationists are not going to be happy untill all human activity outside of the city limits is eliminated and you even have to wonder about there. The parks were established to be used. Yes we have to take care of over use and/or abuse but it was not intended to be reserved for any particular group including the granola crunchers.

First, I ain't no "huggie".

Second, I don't worry about perosnla contact with these chemicals due to my extensive education and training in the proper methodology of handling corrosive, toxic, and otherwise harmful subtance. You don't do my type of work if your a careless intellectual midget.

Finally, genetics and personal biochemistry play a larger role in longevity and resistance to disease than you can possibly imagine. What are perceived to be "small, insignificant" exposure levels to one group are measured as toxic levels to others. Some people have aren't effected by a "normal" dose of Tylenol and eat them by the handful. Others pass out after taking a dose of Vick's Ni-Quil. That specific cause / effect ratio is one of the pet projects in my lab. Sequencing and understanding a mammalian genome is a walk in the park relative to decoding personal biochemistry and the related immunological factors that they influence. That your relatives enjoyed extended lifespans is enviable. But it's hardly worth betting your own life on a similar time frame unless you're willing to copy their lifestyle as well as their genes. Fatty foods and alcohol can to some degree be countered with exercise and an otherwise active lifestyle. They weren't exposed to the barrage of organic waste, microwaves, and other radiation, along with food "preservatives" and additives, including high levels of salt in most all the crap you ingest made outside your own kitchens, that we are forced to endure as part of our highly "advanced" society.

For what it's worth, I'm not even worried about you. You control your own destiny, not me brother. So live fast or slow, party hard or hardly, eat whatever you want, and you'll die anyway. The only choice you have is a slow, painful death or a relatively quick one. But in either case I'm not concerned. Why worry about things you can't control, like lifespans? (Insert refernece to Jim Fixx and Ule Gibbons here.) But it's possible that some education into the cause and effect scenarios might be useful to you in planning your next big whatever you do.

Anon - I hate to tell you this, but only one of my four grandparents lived that long. The one grandfather who smoked (none of the rest smoked or drank) died in his early 60's.

You know why my other grandpa lived so long? Because his body was in much better shape. He did farm work most of his life, spent much time outdoors and got PLENTY of exercise - as a way of life (he called it work, not exercise). Ironically, he had a much harder life than me, relatively speaking, but was much healthier than me overall, because he wasn't exposed to some of the things I've been exposed to.

Worry? No. I don't worry daily about the chemicals that people have mentioned. Frankly, I think - to some extent - they are unavoidable, because Americans rage against changing their so-called cushy lifestyles. But I do try to watch how I live. And I agree with Lone Hiker.


I wonder how our grandparents lived so long (into their 90s) without the EPA and FDA around to cry that the sky is falling? They smoked, drank, ate lotsa fatty food....
...and were around a LOT of chemicals! I think Ziggy is right, you huggies WORRY yourselves to death.

Excuse my not completing the story. Other issues needed more immediate attention.

As for napthalene, you might be more familiar with this compound as the active ingredient in moth balls. It's what makes moth balls smell like moth balls. The simple explanation as to why it is an effective moth barrier is that moths recognize a toxic substance when they smell one. We obviously aren't as intellectually evolved as the common moth. Most people aren't even bright enough to handle this stuff with gloves, or even wash their hands after handling the product. It too is easily ingested straight through your skin, and God forbid you itch your eyes, pick your nose or suck your thumb prior to washing your hands after contact with this junk.

And for what it's worth, I believe the proper spelling is toluene (phonetically pronounced towel-u-ene), but it's not worth nit-picking over. Either way you spell it, it comes out S-C-R-E-W-E-D. It's too damn bad that certain people develop a liking for the odors of certain organic by-products like gasoline, kerosine, toluene, lighter fluids, carbochlor (dry cleaning solution) and their ilk. They're all HIGHLY corrosive to your internal organs via a process known as oxidation. You may have heard about it. It's currently all the rage in the home cleaning industry, claiming the ability to remove any stain from any material. Which for the most part, it can. But highly oxidative substances such as these organics will remove more than you bargained for when mishandled.

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