Former NPS directors back change to Yellowstone sled policy

Seven of the eight living former directors of the National Park Service have wrote a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne urging him to ensure a continued transition away from snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park.

Spanning every presidential administration from Lyndon Johnson to Bill Clinton, the seven former Park Service leaders say a proposal to allow a return of more snowmobile use in Yellowstone would undercut Kempthorne’s commitment to emphasize conservation in the national parks and circumvent policies he endorsed last year that require the highest protection of air quality, visitor enjoyment of natural quiet and other national park resources and values.

The former directors who signed the letter were George Hartzog (1964-1972), Ronald Walker (1973-1975), Gary Everhardt (1975-1977), Russell Dickenson (1980-1985), James Ridenour (1989-1993), Roger Kennedy (1993-1997) and Robert Stanton (1997-2001).

Only Fran Mainella, who resigned last July as NPS director (2001-2006) and is constrained for one year by ethics rules, did not sign the letter.

In the joint letter, the former leaders tell Kempthorne: “The proposal is to escalate snowmobile use as much as three-fold over current average numbers even though scientific studies have demonstrated conclusively that a two-thirds reduction in average snowmobile numbers during the past four winters is principally responsible for significantly improving the health of the park for visitors, employees and wildlife.”

The letter continues: "The latest National Park Service study illuminates in detail that allowing Yellowstone’s current average of 250 snowmobiles per day to increase – to as many as 720 snowmobiles – would undercut the park’s resurgent natural conditions.”

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