Dear Superintendent Wenk,
These comments are submitted on behalf of the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC). Â AQRC’s mission is to maintain and restore natural sounds and natural quiet in Alaska through advocacy and education for the benefit of people and animals. Â We’re dedicated to protecting the rights of Alaskans to quiet places for the benefit, more specifically, of public land users, home and cabin owners, communities, businesses, visitors, future generations, and wildlife.
Although our very clear focus is Alaska, we do on occasion comment on important motorized recreation issues in other parts of the country. Â Certainly the longstanding Yellowstone Winter Use issue is of very considerable importance nationally and we would like, once again, to offer our brief comments.
AQRC believes in a fair and balanced allocation of the public lands for both non-motorized and motorized recreation. Â Regarding winter motorized recreation, since the great majority of BLM, Forest Service, and National Wildlife Refuge lands are open for snowmobile use,
we believe that National Park System lands should be closed to snowmobiles altogether. Â Of all the public lands in the U.S., the ones that most Americans are most aware of, and most expect to be responsibly protected, are our National Parks and other units of the National Park System. Â These are America’s natural icons. Â Visitors expect to enjoy there the best of what our country’s public lands have to offer, not the mechanized noise and busyness from which they’re trying to briefly escape. Â In the Yellowstone region,there are hundreds of thousands of acres of nearby National Forest lands available for snowmobiling. Â Yellowstone National Park should provide an alternative experience–quiet, peaceful, natural, unpolluted, unspoiled, and protective of wildlife.
We’re appalled that, far from providing a snowmobile-free Park, the Service is proposing to allow 480 snowmobiles on many days, levels that have not been seen for a decade. Â It appears that the Service is bowing to political pressures and is unwilling to fulfill its stewardship responsibility by prohibiting snowmobiles. Consequently, although we strongly and unequivocally continue to recommend that the Service adopt a no snowmobile policy, it appears that some slight measures of damage control are all that we can expect. Â In that context, we recommend, in addition of course to substantially reducing the number of snowmobiles allowed in the Park, the following:
1. Â Strong new Best Available Technology standards for both snowmobiles and snowcoaches, implemented ASAP;
2. Â Better services and routes for snowshoers, skiers, and other low-impact visitors;
3. Â A reduced winter speed limit;
4. Â A requirement that snowmobilers be guided by a professional guide.
The National Park Service is a trusted land manager of the crown jewels (to coin a phrase) of America’s public lands. Â We urge you not to betray that trust with a plan that degrades rather than protects Yellowstone National Park.
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition
P.O. Box 202592
Anchorage, AK 99520
Kenny Lake, Alaska
HC60 Box 306T
Copper Center, AK 99573