It’s the great big, broad, land ‘way up yonder; It’s the forests where silence has lease.
It’s the beauty that fills me with wonder; It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.
~ Robert Service ~
June 4, 2013
Re: Yellowstone National Park Winter Use Proposed Rule
Dear Yellowstone National Park:
The following are the comments of the Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition (AQRC). Founded in 1996, 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 wildlife. More particularly, we’re dedicated to protecting the rights of Alaskans to quiet places for the benefit of public land users, home and cabin owners, communities, businesses, visitors, future generations, and wildlife. We believe that natural sounds and natural quiet should receive the same consideration given to other ecological values, such as clean air, clean water, fish, wildlife, and scenic beauty. Although there are many places in Alaska that look the same as they did 100 or more years ago, very few sound as they did just 10 or 20 years ago—and of course this is true of many places in the lower 48 as well.
As you can see, AQRC is clearly Alaska focused. However, some motorized recreational vehicle issues outside of the state are so important that we feel compelled to provide brief comments. Winter use in Yellowstone National Park is one of those issues, and this is not the first time that AQRC has commented on the winter use of this iconic park.
We don’t believe that there is any place for recreational snowmobiling in the National Park System. Many other public lands provide opportunities for snowmobiling; there is no need to allow this use in the National Park System, where most Americans expect to be able to enjoy a quiet, natural experience. Units of the National Park System are not to be managed for multiple use, but instead are meant to receive a very high level of responsible stewardship and protectio
Recognizing, however, that the Park Service in fact intends to allow snowmobiling in the Park, we would make the following suggestions to try to minimize the harm resulting from this activity, to improve the quality of the winter recreational experience for non-motorized users like cross country skiers and snowshoers, and to protect wildlife. We do recognize that the Service, in its Temporary Use Plan, has taken a number of steps to reduce snowmobile impacts, and we appreciate those steps, including, among others, designating certain side roads as ski and snowshoe routes. But more needs to be done–and certainly any backsliding would be a serious mistake.
1. All snowmobiles need to meet the highest possible standards for noise and emissions; there should be no exceptions.
2. Racing snowmobiles, or operating a snowmobile in excess of 35 mph, should be prohibited on all oversnow vehicle road segments.
3. Best Available Technology standards should be implemented no later than the 2015-2016 season.
4. The Park Service should support increasing demand by visitors desiring snowcoach access to carry skis or snowshoes into the Park.
5. Under the current Temporary Use Plan the maximum daily number of snowmobiles at the West Entrance has been 160 per day. This cap has never been reached. Instead of increasing the cap to 230, the number should be reduced. It should be no more—ideally less—than the actual average maximum number of snowmobiles that entered there this last season.
Thank you for the chance to again submit comments on this very important issue.
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition
Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition P.O. Box 202592, Anchorage, AK 99520 http://www.alaskaquietrights.org