OPINION: The Yellowstone Snowmobile Debate, My Pet Peeve

I consider myself to be a guy with a fairly open mind. I can listen to friends, acquaintances and strangers talk on a wide variety of topics — important stuff like politics, religion, musical taste or whether we should build a sports team a new stadium — and I can appreciate folks’ perspective on things, even if I don’t agree with them.

I am absolutely at my wit’s end, however, with the ongoing debate over whether snowmobiles should be allowed in very, very limited numbers in Yellowstone National Park. I see a simple article or editorial on the topic by some of the people who refuse to accept simple logic, and I immediately get all red-faced, and find myself in the position of being “that guy” who is suddenly argumentative and trying to shout louder than the people on the other side of an issue.

Today’s trigger for my angst? An opinion piece I stumbled across on the Salt Lake City Tribune website. This was the second sentence: “The debate over whether to allow any of the noisy, polluting machines into the nation’s oldest park should be on-going, with continuing research into their effects on wildlife, water, air and the natural ecosystem the park should protect.” It was followed by reader’s comments, including the most recent one that just stated, “Ban ’em. Ban ’em now. Ban ’em for good.”

Yellowstone is worth fighting for.

Below is what I wrote in reply. I know, many of you have probably grown VERY tired of the Yellowstone debate. But the arguments on the other side of the topic so deny any logic that I just can’t let it drop. It’s too wonderful of a place to have people using completely ridiculous reasoning lock us out for no reason. It’s a fight worth fighting, even if you live thousands of miles away. Join me in commenting if you wish.


This continues to be one of the most convoluted topics about which I hear people comment. It absolutely defies logic.

Here’s my question: In the summer, there are literally hundreds of thousands of visitors to the park — more than 600,000 in June this year, July was expected to be over 1 million (no official numbers have been released yet). Or, looking at it another way, TOTAL human visitors to Yellowstone Park, according to official park service stats for 2011, for the months of November, December, January, February, March and April, was 128,272. The total for last July? 906,936. Do the math: Average daily visitors from November through April: 703 people. Average daily visitors in July? 29,256.

Are those visitors in the summer magically transported there in non-polluting vehicles? Do they somehow not breath the air, make noise, be seen by the animals or create any pollution? No, they get there by SUVs and RVs, motorcycles, tour busses and cars, and they carry in food and beverage containers, use restrooms and scatter throughout much of the park — 29,000 PER DAY vs. 703 during the winter. But summer visits are touted as a success of the park system — isn’t it great that people are getting out and enjoying our most treasured national park?

Yet the idea of 350 snowmobiles, limited to less than .2 percent (yes, two tenths of one percent) of the land in Yellowstone and only during daylight hours and limited to guided tours, and utilizing government-mandated best available technology four-stroke engines, THAT is what is threatening this great park. Not the massive amount of summer visitors. Not their virtually limitless access. Not their vehicles that on average get a third of the gas mileage of these best available technology snowmobiles. The 2.3 million humans who overran the park in June, July and August of 2011 (again, official Yellowstone stats here — http://www.yellowstone.co/stat… were GOOD for the park. Let’s celebrate their arrival!! But the handful of snowmobiles severely limited to a tiny ribbon within the park? That is what is ruining Yellowstone forever?

Reason it out for yourselves. It’s simple logic.






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