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Snowmobiles do not belong inside Yellowstone Park!
Snowmobiles do not belong inside Yellowstone Park!
Op Ed to The Bulletin, Bend Oregon
In The Bulletin's recent editorial praising the Bush administration for lifting the ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone, The Bulletin has once again demonstrated its narrow-minded, anti-environmental philosophy. While you routinely chastise environ-mentalists for "not telling the whole story," your editorial lauding Bush for lifting the ban by requiring four-stroke engines conveniently ignored the main thrust of the argument against snowmobile use in Yellowstone - protecting the wildlife that re-side within the park's boundaries.
While four-stroke snowmobile engines will help reduce emissions pollution in Yellowstone, they will not reduce the negative impacts upon wildlife created by the more than 800 daily snowmobile users (the Bush administration wants to increase this number) allowed into the park. The four-stroke snowmobiles will do nothing to limit the noise pollution and gawking snowmobilers that pester and harass the wild animals that need to conserve every last bit of energy to survive the harsh Yellowstone winters). The compacted snow tracks that snowmobilers leave are literally "highways of death" for the Yellowstone Buffalo herd. In the winter of 1996-97, the Yellowstone herd (the world's only free-roaming wild Buffalo) consisted of roughly 2,600 animals.
The harsh winter produced above-average snowfall, making it difficult to for-age for grass. Faced with laboring through deep snow in search of food in the park, the buffalo decided to follow the compacted snowmobile trails out of the park in search of easier forage at lower elevations.
Unfortunately for the Buffalo, the Montana Department of Livestock (rather than require ranchers to purchase a $3 vaccine), has decided to shoot any wild Buffalo that leave Yellowstone and enter Montana. This policy was created ostensibly to protect Montana's cattle herds from the disease brucellosis - even though there has never been a known case of bison to bovine brucellosis transmission, less than 25 percent of the Yellowstone Buffalo carry brucellosis, there are no cattle near the park in winter, and 90 percent of Yellowstone's 50,000 elk do carry the disease.
The winter of '96-'97 was a tragic year. for the Buffalo - over 1,100 of these majestic animals were slaughtered by Montana "hunters." Hundreds were shot in the head at point-blank range with a handgun as they stood exhausted in chest-deep snow.
Clearly, there is more to the controversy surrounding snowmobiles in Yellow-stone than just emissions.
The Bulletin also failed to mention that just outside Yellowstone there are hundreds of thousands of acres of National Forest lands with excellent snowmobile terrain that can be used without negative impact to the park itself. Unfortunately, this fact is often obscured in the debate because Yellowstone snowmobile rental and guide businesses attract more customers by offering trips inside the park to view the park's unique wildlife.
While they could make a good living offering tours and rentals outside the park's boundaries, these businesses can make even more money by exploiting Yellowstone wildlife - and so they do. Yellowstone and other national parks were not created to be playgrounds for snowmobilers - they were created to protect the wildlife and natural beauty of the area.
As a snowmobiler myself, I enjoy our trips to the Yellowstone area. However, after our first trip there, we realized that the noise pollution, resultant harassment of wildlife, and concentrated emissions within the park's boundaries just wasn't the right thing to do, and so we no longer ride in the park. Instead, we choose to use some of the fabulous terrain surrounding the park where we can minimize our impact, while still having fun.
Rather than celebrate the Snowmobile Manufacturers Association and Yellowstone tour operators lobbyist's ability to lift the snowmobile ban (via large campaign contributions to Bush), we should instead focus our efforts on the public': perception of snowmobilers. I would en courage all snowmobilers to purchase the cleaner four-stroke machines, but avoid riding within Yellowstone's, boundaries and boycott those businesses that promote in-park tours. Yes, there are some people who just don't like snowmobilers and would like to see us, all go away.
However, in order to be viewed as responsible outdoors enthusiasts who value our sport and the beautiful natural environment in which we ride, we must be willing to make some small sacrifices for the better good.
Steven Glouster is a retired Economics Professor who has lived in the Bend area for 10 years.
Read more . . .
SNOWMOBILES - a history of this discussion:
Snowmobile parking at Kapka Butte and Dutchman Flat revisited in 2009
Proposed Tumalo Recreation Zone in the Deschutes National Forest in 2009
Snowmobiler falls 1,500' into Mt. St. Helens and survives
Map of snowmobile restrictions at Dutchman Flat
Snowmobile restrictions published for Dutchman Flat
Snowmobile Safety Summit on Dutchman Flat area
Report snowmobile renegades - an Editorial
Snowmobiles should not mix with skiers and snowshoers
Snowmobile accident draws $11 million dollar damage award
Snowmobilers keep the Atta Boy Race on track
Snowmobilers must give a little on parking at Dutchman Flat
Recent snowmobile accidents near Bend
Set snowmobile limits at Dutchman Flat
Unregulated OHV use is being reviewed across the western states
Snowmobile access to summit of Mt. St. Helens questioned by The Mountaineers
Snowmobile speed limits on Dutchman Flat in Oregon
Snowmobiles offer thrills
Snowmobiles in Yellowstone
Snowmobiles as a tool for traditional mountaineering