Conservation Groups Will Head to Court Over Yellowstone Snowmobile Decision
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.