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Yellowstone Officials OK Snowmobile Plan

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Yellowstone Officials OK Snowmobile Plan


Yellowstone Officials OK Snowmobile Plan

Yellowstone Officials OK Snowmobile Plan

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Officials at Yellowstone National Park announce plans to allow up to 720 snowmobiles in the park each day. The move is angering environmentalists who want snowmobiles banned from the park. Alex Chadwick discusses the controversy with John Sacklin of the National Park Service at Yellowstone.


This is DAY TO DAY, I'm Madeleine Brand.


And I'm Alex Chadwick.

Call it the greens versus the greasers round four, but the nation's first and most famous national park, Yellowstone is again in a dispute about snowmobiles. Environmentalists want them out because they're noisy and smoky and they scare the animals. Snowmobilers like the outdoors and spectacular scenery and argue that there's not practical way for most people to otherwise see much of Yellowstone when it's snowed in during the winter.

This has been a long fight and on Monday, the National Park Service issued new rules that have the environmentalists very unhappy. John Sacklin is a management assistant with the National Park Service at Yellowstone. John, this is a preliminary plan we understand, the fourth time this has come up in six years. Give us the number of snowmobiles you propose allowing in.

Mr. JOHN SACKLIN (National Park Service, Yellowstone): We are currently and proposing to allow 720 snowmobiles in Yellowstone each day. They all must be with a commercial guide and they all must meet best available technology requirements that the National Park Service has set.

CHADWICK: Well, the environmentalists say you've been averaging 250 snowmobiles a day. They don't even like that number, but why raise it to 720?

Mr. SACKLIN: Well, we're actually not raising the number. We're continuing the plan that we've been operating under for the last couple of winters into the future.

CHADWICK: That was the number that you had and the fact is you get about 250 a day even though the limit is 720.

Mr. SACKLIN: That's true. Yes.

CHADWICK: OK. Well, here's the other complaint of the environmentalists. Your own scientists find that snowmobilers, even with these new machines, violate your own standards for noise and air pollution.

Mr. SACKLIN: When we look at our noise, the soundscapes of the park in the winter and when, we look at the noise from a variety of over snow vehicles, it's not just snowmobiles, it's snowmobiles and snow coaches, especially some of the older model snowcoaches that have high exhaust systems that are quite noisy. It's also some of administrative vehicles, our administrative snowmobiles and snowcoaches, along with our groomers that are necessary to pack and smooth the roads.

So, when we hear the statement made it is purely recreational snowmobiles, we try to point out that there are many other kinds of vehicles operating in the park in the winter and our monitoring picks up the sounds from all of those vehicles. We can differentiate between them but, it's been reported by some that it's only recreational snowmobiles and we disagree with that.

CHADWICK: When you talk about snowmobiling or snowcoaching in Yellowstone, John, what kind of an area are people traveling over? Are they traveling over very snowy roads or out across the open space of the park? Where are they going?

Mr. SACKLIN: Well, that's a good question. One of the misconceptions about winter use in Yellowstone is that snowmobiles are allowed to go anywhere in the park. They are not. Snowmobiles and snowcoaches are restricted to the roads that you and I might drive on during the summer months.

CHADWICK: John Sacklin what are the snow conditions like now at Yellowstone, where you are? You look out your window, what do you see?

Mr. SACKLIN: Well I'm here in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming and this is one of the warmest, driest parts of Yellowstone National Park. We get relatively little snow right here but I understand as you go - we go up in elevation and further into the park itself there is several inches or more of snow already on the ground. We expect to open for the winter season this December 20th, and look forward to people enjoying the park this winter.

CHADWICK: John Sacklin, management assistant with the National Park Service at Yellowstone. John, thank you.

Mr. SACKLIN: You're welcome.

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