Mary, Snowmobiles and Congress
As I noted last month, the rules of the game in Congress have changed. The Democrats now in control are determined to place the Bush administration under more scrutiny than it's been under in six years.
And the Park Service is not immune from the scrutiny. That was obvious yesterday when Mary faced some tough questions from the House parks subcommittee. One of the issues that surfaced during the hearing, not surprisingly, was snowmobiles in Yellowstone.
Representative Rush Holt, a Democrat from New Jersey, questioned Mary about the propriety of snowmobiles in the park and noted the numerous studies conducted since 2001 that have come to the same conclusion, that the best outcome for the park's environment would be to phase out snowmobiles.
Not surprisingly, Mary demurred when asked if she thought snowmobiles and Yellowstone were a good mix, saying it would be inappropriate in light of the ongoing work on the latest study. And that's disappointing, particularly in light of her later comment to Congressman Holt that she "absolutely" agreed with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne's position that conservation would prevail over public use if that use impacted the parks.
The record is very clear that snowmobiles impact Yellowstone, yet the administration sits on its collective hands. Now, what truly will be interesting in light of Mary's answers to Holt is whether she will move to ban snowmobiles from the park once the current studies are wrapped up.