ISMA Yellowstone Information Sheet

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November 25, 2002 7:00 AM

Note: This information sheet is from Ed Klim at ISMA

On November 12, 2002, the National Park Service issued an internal review DRAFT of the SEIS recommending limited snowmobiling be allowed to continue in Yellowstone National Park. Without getting into the specifics (since they are only in DRAFT form and much can change during the next few months), it appears they are recommending there will be a limited number of snowmobiles allowed to enter the Park, most of which will be required to be new technology machines from rental agents, accompanied by a guide.

Snowmobilers will continue to ride only on groomed roadways within the Park. Strict speed limits will be enforced and the Park Service will use adaptive management to manage the Park. Even with these proposed strenuous guidelines and oversight actions, the fringe environmental community has been crying "Foul!" and making countless dishonest claims relative to snowmobiling in Yellowstone.

The Greens efforts crying "Foul" in Yellowstone are based on misrepresentations of fact. Much of what they claim is so off the wall, a response is difficult since their claims have no basis in fact. It is also important to understand how the Fringe community initiated an e-mail based hate campaign that was run by the "Greens" to ban snowmobiles from Yellowstone. More than 93% of all of the comments sent in by the Green Community, asking for snowmobiles to be banned, were e-mail based, engine generated letters, with virtually no original meaning or thought. The 1987 States Court of Appeals ruled from the District of Columbia that the "Substantial Evidence Standard" of the NEPA process (which includes the comments sent in) was never meant to be taken to mean that agency rulemaking is a democratic process by which the majority of commentors prevail by sheer weight of numbers. Thankfully the Park Service saw the Green?s e-mail hate campaign for what it was. Thoughtful, honest comments in conjunction with the "Truth about snowmobiling" will prevail in the ultimate ruling.

Think about this:
Yellowstone is 2.2 million acres. That is 3593 square miles of land. If the maximum number of sleds allowed by the proposal were ALL in the part at the same time, and if they were spread out throughout the park, there would be one snowmobile for every3.4 square miles. I ask you, is that over crowding? Does that impair the Park?

Following are some key TRUTHFUL points of fact that support reasonable snowmobiling in Yellowstone.

* The January 2001 decision to ban snowmobiles from the road systems of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks was an unwarranted political action without factual or legal justification. Present snowmobile use in Yellowstone consists of about 65,000 individual snowmobiles each year. These snowmobiles have NEVER caused a violation of National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

* Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872 for the purpose of conserving its unique resources and providing a pleasant ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. The United States Congress has stated that Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks would be managed to conserve the scenery, the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein and to provide for enjoyment of the same. Both parks have been managed to conserve the land and provide for the public use and enjoyment of the visitors each year. No damage has been caused to the parks by snowmobiling.

* The political decision to ban snowmobiles would have created a terrible precedent that threatens traditional, year around visitors to all national parks. If 65,000 snowmobiles produce an unacceptable impairment of the park, than more than 1.5 million automobiles, busses, light trucks visiting Yellowstone annually during the summer months certainly cause a greater impairment to the park. If the wintertime vehicular use of snowmobiles along the road system mandated a closure to the park of snowmobiles, there would be no way to permit greater vehicular use during the summer.

* If a mere disturbance of an animal along a roadway necessitates the ban of snowmobiles in the winter, then the summertime disturbance of animals caused daily throughout the United States would not be permitted to continue.

* The proposed snowmobile ban in Yellowstone would have established a dangerous and insidious precedent that would threaten traditional visitation throughout the entire National Park System of the United States of America.

* While millions of visitors enjoy the parks each year, the resources have been protected and preserved. Indications that bison and elk populations have been stressed are simply incorrect. The bison and elk population in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are now at record levels and are healthy and strong. Twenty years ago there were 388 bison in Yellowstone National Park, today there are over 3000. (One could say that snowmobiles should be used by all ranchers to encourage good health and propagation of their herd.)

* Most visitations within Yellowstone National Park occur along the road systems. Over 99% of Yellowstone remains roadless and is treated as wilderness. All visitors, whether summer or winter, in search of natural solitude can find it by parking in many trailhead areas, lacing on boots and or skis and simply venturing into the over 2 million acres of undeveloped, untouched back country.

* Yellowstone National Park is approximately 2.2 million acres (roughly half the size of the state of Connecticut).

* Snowmobiles are restricted to the 185 miles of the Park?s 275-mile road system. Snowmobilers have access to less than 1% of the entire landmass of Yellowstone.

* There are in essence two parks within Yellowstone National Park. One is the area developed along the road system and the other is the backcountry. A visitor seeking a wilderness experience will not be able to find these amenities along a road system in any season, however those visitors have the millions of acres and over 99% of park land available to enjoy, at the cost of some modest exertion.

* Anglers should be extremely concerned about the precedent set should the snowmobile ban be adopted. Fishing is an enormously popular activity in Yellowstone. Most fishing is catch and release ? but even that practice generates fish mortality of approximately 1%. Of course, hooking a fish, fighting it, landing it, unhooking it and releasing it clearly disturbs the fish. A standard that deems ANY disturbance to be flatly unacceptable and thus the legal equivalent of impairment would result in the prohibition of angling.

* It is worth noting that studies in YNP indicate animals, during the winter, are subjected to greater stress and disturbance by cross country skiers and snow-shoers than they are by snowmobiles. Most animals habituate to automobiles in the summer and are similarly habituated to the presence of snowmobiles in the winter. In contrast, animals are more sensitive when backcountry visitors approach them on skis, snowshoes or by walking. Despite empirical evidence that these forms of recreation cause disturbance to animals, there has been no proposals made to ban these traditional forms of recreation.

* A snowmobile ban in Yellowstone would devastate the surrounding communities. Over 400 full time jobs would be lost resulting in business and school failures throughout the region.

* In addition to these facts, three national surveys reveal that over 80% of all Americans believe that snowmobiling in Yellowstone — on groomed roadways — should be allowed.

In conclusion, the snowmobile community along with the manufacturers understands that there was never a reason in fact or law to ban snowmobiles from the use of the road system in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The effort to ban snowmobiles was purely a political gesture that ignored and disregarded the facts.

The Internal DRAFT of the SEIS will be reviewed, discussed and hopefully updated. The FINAL SEIS will be made public on February 19, 2003 and the Record Of Decision will be announced as early as March 21, 2003.

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