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February 18, 2004

Shocking snowmobile stand

NYT readers will recognize Nick Kristof as one of the most vigorously anti-Bush columnist on the Op-Ed page. So imagine my surprise to read that he agrees with the administration on snowmobile access to Yellowstone.

He makes a persuasive case that new four-stroke snowmobiles are much less polluting--and less noisy--than older models. But his main point is that the park is almost inaccessible during the winter unless you're one of those "snow camping" weirdos who like to snowshoe for 20 miles before lying down in fluffy, flaky beds (as Paulette, Julie, and I are most definitely not).

The lynchpin of his argument is that environmentalism in the U.S. is best served by getting more people out into nature, to see what is at stake if the Administration is able to gut more important environmental regs. It makes good sense to me--and actually makes me want to go see Yellowstone in all its winter glory.

Posted by jay at February 18, 2004 10:19 AM | TrackBack
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I don't have such a problem with snowmobilers getting access to national parks. Parks are big, and the more people that use them, the better. Outdoor motorsports get a LOT more funding than outdoor non-motor-sports, too. I forget the figures, but it's something like 10 times the money for snow parts, motor cross trails, and such than for walking trails, footbridges bridges, and the like.

All I ask is that they keep the noisy things separate from those of us under our own power. The whole point of slogging away up a hill for hours is to get away from the noise of civilization, and having a snowmobile pass you on the trail at 30MPH kinda defeats the point.

The Parks Service has tried "mixed-use" trails before, for walkers and for motor activities, but they don't work. The motor use just takes over as the walkers choose to go elsewhere. I just hope there's always an 'elsewhere' to go to.

By the way, they handle things pretty well at Mount Baker. Thinking of the park as a big circle centred on the summit, a "wedge" of the circle is dedicated to snowmobilers, and the rest is foot traffic only. Seems like a good compromise to me.

Posted by: david on February 18, 2004 12:58 PM

It's important to remember that the parks are set aside not just for the use fossil fueled bipeds, but for the protection of the resident flora and fauna, too.

Yeah, the parks are glorious in winter, and huge areas are inaccessible. Those unreachable areas are great place for, oh, hibernating bears, for example. It's okay to have places people can't get to. Or that they have to work really hard to reach. That's part of what we're protecting.

There are plenty of alternatives for snowmobilers - BLM lands, the state parks... I'm open to VERY limited use (I'm thinking shuttle type service) but my heart still wants to see aggressive protection for magical places like Yellowstone. Relaxing the restrictions just seems like the start of chipping away at the sanctity of the parks.

Posted by: pam on February 18, 2004 10:58 PM
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