Respect your elders 

Yellowstone snowmobiling

With the National Park Service’s (NPS) release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for winter use in Yellowstone National Park, the clock is officially ticking on the public’s opportunity to weigh in—again—on one of the most controversial issues facing the nation’s oldest national park.

On March 27 the agency released the final draft of its proposed winter use plan. Much to the dismay of conservationists and a significant number of former NPS leaders, the agency is proposing to allow up to 720 snowmobiles in the park each day during the winter season.

One day before the DEIS was officially released, seven of the eight living former directors of the NPS, three former deputy NPS directors and a former Yellowstone superintendent publicly decried the agency’s plan and called on U.S. Interior Department Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to uphold his commitment to the preservation of park resources. (Fran Mainella, who resigned last July as NPS director and is constrained for one year by ethics rules, was the only living former director to not sign the letter.)

“Mr. Secretary, we join as former stewards of the national parks in urging you to demonstrate in our country’s oldest national park the wisdom and value of the 2006 Park Service Management Policies,” the letter states.

Bill Wade, chairman of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, which boasts about 570 members, says no other issue has mobilized so many current and former park service employees.

“To have seven out of the eight former directors—including some that served purely in Republican administrations—come forward and sign a letter like this is absolutely unprecedented as far as I know,” Wade says.

The DEIS is the latest in a lengthy and costly series of studies that will guide Yellowstone’s winter use into the future. The agency has spent nearly eight years and $10 million studying this single issue. The public can visit from now until May 31 to download the DEIS and submit comments. The Park Service intends to have a final rule guiding winter use in place before the start of the 2007–2008 winter season.
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