By HDN Editorial Staff
The rumbling you hear coming from Yellowstone National Park is more than the high-pitched whine of snowmobile cutting through fresh-fallen powder.
The noise coming from one of America's public parks and Montana's southern gem is the rumblings of the state's sportsmen and sportswomen who enjoy riding snowmobiles through the park. A recent approval of a new winter use plan prohibits the use of snowmobiles in Yellowstone.
The ban would take place in 2003. The Michigan-based International Snowmobile Manufacturers' Association filed suit in December to overturn the plan.
Ed Klim, association president, said in a recent Associated Press interview that the park service didn't follow the National Environmental Policy Act in putting together final proposal that eventually was accepted. Klim said snowmobilers see this as just the beginning salvo for limiting access to other public lands.
We, at the Havre Daily News, are glad the first return fire has been launched in this war on the West. We have seen too many stories about how more and more public land is being branded off limits to the American taxpayers.
This change just isn't right.
People from back East who belong to conservation groups and have nothing better to do than interrupt a well-established way of life in the West should take a closer look at their own neighborhoods. Some of these do-gooders should be more concerned about restricting guns or smog-producing vehicles from entering Central Park in New York instead of worrying about a national gem like Yellowstone Park.
The conservation groups said that snowmobiles are fouling the park with air and noise pollution and are impacting wildlife. These same groups said visitors to the park's most scenic sites, including Old Faithful and Yellowstone's Grand Canyon, have difficulty in escaping the roar of snowmobile engines. In other places, they say that heavy snowmobile use forces wildlife to avoid habitat vital to their winter survival.
The number of winter visitors to the park doubled from 70,000 to 140,000 between 1983 to 1993, according to figures in the AP story. Most use snowmobiles, which the conservation groups say are responsible for up to 68 percent of the park's carbon monoxide pollution and up to 90 percent of its annual hydrocarbon emissions.
But many technological improvements have been made to cut down the pollutants released from snowmobiles. These "green-friendly" snowmobiles also cut down on noise pollution. This new plan should be rewritten to allow the newer, cleaner snowmobiles to be used in Yellowstone.
After all, if the first step is to keep the snowmobile riders out of the park next will be the summer tourists with their air polluting cars and recreational vehicles.
And to keep the American public out of its own national park would be a crying shame.