For longer than the National Park Service has been in business, capitalists have pulled and prodded at national parks, looking for a way to get their financial cut of the natural resources. Indeed, it was the Northern Pacific Railroad that lobbied Congress to set aside Yellowstone National Park...so it would have a new tourist market.
That capitalistic hunger continues to this very day, seemingly blind to how it just very well might cut its own throat.
Should we be surprised at this behavior? Of course not. Disappointed? I'd like to think so.
In the late 1800s, Harper's Weekly also was disappointed. It was so disappointed that it ran a political cartoon and story titled, "Desecration of Our National Parks," that imagined what would happen if Yellowstone was "leased to speculators."
The cartoon depicts a gateway to the park on which hangs a sign proclaiming, "None but the company's carriages can enter this gate." Elsewhere in the frame is a store-front sign selling advertising space "on the rocks" and "steam baths at the geysers."
Fast-forward roughly 125 years or so. Snowmobile and motorized recreation interests have succeeded in convincing the Bush administration to allow recreational snowmobiling in Yellowstone to continue despite $10 million worth of studies that have demonstrated that snow coaches are the environmentally preferred solution for winter transportation in the park.
But that's not good enough for the state of Wyoming, which surely in the best commercial interests has asked a federal court to review Yellowstone's latest winter use plan. Why? Because the state objects to the plan's requirement that all recreational snowmobiles in the park be led by commercial guides, because the plan calls for no more than 540 snowmobiles to enter the park on any one winter day, and because the state for some reason does not like the park's plan for avalanche management across Sylvan Pass.
In writing about this turn of events for the Casper Star-Tribune, Brodie Farquhar adds that:
The state attorneys allege that Yellowstone violated a slew of laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Park Organic Act and the U.S. Constitution in making their decision.
The petition further requests the court to set aside the above decisions and order the Park Service to revisit those issues and develop a revised plan by Sept. 1, 2008.
This marks at least the second challenge to the winter use plan, as six conservation groups previously had announced their intention to challenge the legality of Yellowstone's plan.
How much is too much? That's a question that should be posed to those interests who only ask more and more of the national parks, whether it's Yellowstone or Yosemite or Great Smoky Mountains or Everglades.
How long will it take them to cook these golden geese?