Two of the most contentious issues in the National Park System are the debate over snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park and the one over off-road vehicle management at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
In Yellowstone, the dispute over recreational snowmobiles is moving into its second decade at a cost of more than $10 million to the National Park Service. Sometime next year we should see the latest draft winter-use plan and how it proposes to let visitors enter the park: snowmobiles, snowcoaches, or a mix of the two?
While snowmobile technology certainly has evolved since 2000 -- when this issue became a Ping-Pong ball between conservationists worried about impacts to Yellowstone's air, water, sound, and employee and visitor health and snowmobile enthusiasts who prefer to enjoy winter in the park atop their sleds -- how much those impacts can be resolved or mitigated remains questionable.
Past efforts at solving this conundrum have resulted in lawsuits that succeeded in sending the Yellowstone staff back to the drawing board time and again.
At Cape Hatteras, the debate over when and where those who rely on off-road vehicles to reach preferred spots on the seashore is only a handful of years old. But it is particularly heated with abuse at times heaped on Park Service staff as well as on Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society, which successfully sued to have the Park Service produce an ORV management plan.
Depending on which side you listen to, the proposed ORV rules would be devastating to local businesses and force surf casters and their families to walk miles toting their gear to reach their preferred fishing spots, or they would go a long way towards restoring healthy populations of endangered and threatened sea turtles and shorebirds.
While, understandably, these issues can have the greatest impact on the economies and livelihoods of those living closest to Yellowstone and Cape Hatteras, these are units of the National Park System, and as such should be important to all who enjoy the national parks, no matter where they live.
So, with that background, which of these two issues is of greater interest to you?