Yellowstone’s Planning Failure(s)


The abject failure of planning in Yellowstone National Park can be traced to a single, simple flaw: ‘complacency.’

The planners and administrators of the park are just going through the motions. They are comfortable with their personal and institutional situations, and they don’t want to rock the boat. snowtel-tower-nps.jpgThey certainly don’t want to break with tradition and anticipate future conditions. They are happy to glide along without breaking any new ground or taking a stand for what is right. They are pleased to react to litigation rather than embark on anticipatory planning.

A pertinent and present example is the pending winter use plan. The planners have not addressed the changing landscape of winter in Yellowstone. They have failed to acknowledge global warming. They have failed to address changing technologies. They have failed to address demographic changes in the population. They have ignored their own studies and made decisions based on the path of least resistance.

This is inexcusable and unforgivable. This is also safe because they are never held to account. There is no oversight, there is no outside peer review. There is, however, public comment, but it’s neither binding, nor taken seriously.

The planners and administrators of Yellowstone National Park are going to cost the American taxpayer many millions of dollars over the next 30 – 40 years because of their complacency. They will have to face lawsuits and continuing revisions of plans because they have avoided anticipating the future. They do just enough to get by. How sad.

One glaring error in winter use planning has been the poor definition of Best Available Technology (BAT.) BAT is based on conceptions of winter visitation that are 30 years old. BAT is a static standard that assumes a status quo for vehicles and over-the-snow travel. BAT does not acknowledge that humans are problem solving creatures. BAT is based on the easy way to mollify pet concessionaires and not what is best for the visitor – or the park. Of course, there is no room to change BAT – that would mean considered thought and anticipation.

Alright now, everybody that is a rational and concerned person raise your hand. Thank you. Now then: what is your objection to a snowmobile in Yellowstone that is quieter than all current winter transportation? What is your objection to a snowmobile that is both quieter and cleaner than all current modes of winter transportation?

What? You say it can’t be done. It can. It has. It is. The University of Idaho has built a snowmobile that:

“. . . weighed in at 570 lbs, the lightest idaho-green-sled.jpgcombustion engine powered snowmobile in the competition; passed the National Park Service (NPS) Noise Emission standard; passed the cold start on the first pull; was second in acceleration (0.2 seconds behind a competing sled that did not pass NPS noise standards); and earned bonus kudos for no maintenance during the week of competition.” [citation]

Raise your hands if you believe that only 4-stroke engines in snowmobiles are BAT. Well, you too are complacent. The University of Idaho sled is a two stroke!!!

“The University of Idaho team also hopes to earn a first-ever National Park Certification for a two-stroke engine, a certification based on standards higher than those set by the Environmental Protection Agency. idaho-green-team.jpgThe vehicle has met all the requirements but one. “We are very very close,” said Johnson. “Hydrocarbon emissions have to be less than 15 grams per kilowatt hour. Right now we are at 17.9 grams per kilowatt hour. With some engine hardware changes, calibration changes and catalyst development, that number will improve. This year’s results show that two-stroke engines are a clean and quiet solution for consumers that still expect performance from their recreational products, and will make the recreational industry, consumers and land managers take a second look at how they view the future of the two-stroke engine.” [citation.]

bombardier-air-quality-test.jpgThe current University of Idaho prototype snowmobile is cleaner than 90% of the obsolete Bombardier fleet, and way cleaner than the diesel buses that are BAT. Where is the thinking planner? Can the world really change?

<<- Can this rattling, stinking, unsafe, obsolete vehicle really be good for Yellowstone?

There are many other examples that could be used. Why is the administration of Yellowstone National Park allowing the erection of buildings that they have no means to fund? Why is there no winter use plan for “low snow years?” Why is there no plan to encourage back country use and appreciation? Why is there no bicycle lane incorporated into the current, (and anticipated,) roads? Why can’t ‘back country rangers’ give adequate directions to “Fairyland?” Why is there only ‘first class’ accommodations in park facilities? Why does the National Park Service encourage and foster monopolistic domination of facilities? There are more!

Where is the plan for continued fuel efficient vehicle purchase? Why is there a plan to build an exorbitant west entrance station? Why don’t the planners look at partnerships in sewage disposal with gateway communities, (look at Yosemite,)?


Here’s some interesting reading if you raised your hand.

Home page 2007 Clean Snowmobile Challenge. Results page 2007 Clean Snowmobile Challenge. AutoblogGreen snowmobile news release. University of Idaho Press Release. Michigan Tech Archives and News Releases. Lansing State Journal Story.


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