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Park allows more sleds

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The National Park Service has finally released its final proposal for winter use in Yellowstone National park, and much to the dismay of conservationists, a significant number of current and former NPS leaders, and the majority of the tens of thousands of people who have commented on the issue over the past decade, the agency is calling for the continued use of snowmobiles, and at considerably higher levels than have been entering the park in recent years.

The final environmental impact statement (which is expected to be finalized this fall), allows for a total of 540 guided snowmobiles
 to enter the park each day.

Bill Wade is the executive director of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, and he says that while the current proposal is better than the 720-snowmobile limit the agency had proposed earlier in the year, it’s still far too many.

“We base that concern on scientific and technical studies that have been done over the last three years, including the monitoring that was done this last winter, that shows that 250 or 260 snowmobiles per day is having noticeable impacts on noise, air quality deterioration and wildlife disturbances,” Wade says. “So we can only assume that with a doubling of the number of snowmobiles per day that those impacts will increase.”

Earlier this year the Environmental Protection Agency—the independent federal arbiter of the natural resources rules governing the park—told park officials that increasing the number of snowmobiles allowed into the park would harm Yellowstone’s natural resources and soundscapes.

But snowmobile advocates aren’t happy with the agency’s decision either. Jack Welch, president of the BlueRibbon, a pro-snowmobile group, told the Billings Gazette: “We’re very disappointed with the level of continued access and we still believe there’s room
for some non-commercially guided”
snowmobiles.

Meanwhile, Wade is holding out hope that agency officials will reconsider the recommendation and make the final decision more consistent with the agency’s long-held management priority to leave park resources “unimpaired” for future generations.

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