JUST WHY IS THE NPS SO OBSTINATE ?
I’m tired of this subject. I’m tired of hating snowmobiles and calling it a discussion of winter use and access in Yellowstone National Park. I’m tired of breast beating and post pissing in the name of righteous indignation. The charade stinks and is transparent to any person who honestly admits that more is at stake here than the stink of snowmobiles.
The NPS is busy raising fees around the nation. The outrage is palpable – except that no whine or wail is heard about the fact that it now costs $100/day/person to visit Old Faithful in winter. (How many members in your family?)
The NPS won this one without even going to bat. Americans have been duped into thinking that “motorized over-the -snow travel” is the sensible solution to winter use in Yellowstone. It’s not!
What it is, however, is a way for the NPS to limit access to Yellowstone. It limits access to those wealthy visitors who can afford $100/day, (or more,) to visit. This is capitalism in it’s finest form, and it’s your park service at it’s worst. Even the past directors have been duped – and they are proud of it.
Snowmobiles are a rotten way to hurt Yellowstone, and the NPS knows it. (An excellent review of the current situation: Boise Weekly, “Return Of The Bubbleheads.” It’s got a couple of real and journalistic inaccuracies but it’s a good review.)
What the NPS refuses to admit is that the current crop of “SNOWCOACHES,” (what an interesting amalgam they are,) are probably just as bad, if not worse. The disaster is, that this has not been addressed in any serious way. Nor, for that matter, has the de facto fee increase.
And don’t let the cheerleaders dupe you into thinking that they are talking about the park and it’s environment. They are just lobbying for less access, more wealth, fancy accommodations, and more dependence on commercial guides. This is not access – this is restriction.
If this is such a good approach in the winter – why not apply the same principles in the summer?
The NPS is busy talking about Best Available Technology (BAT) but not for itself and certainly not in reference to the visitor experience. How about a summer BAT ??
Let’s talk safety and visitor experience as well as pollution. The NPS was willing to mandate BAT for snowmobiles in an instantaneous fashion, but not for the outmoded Bombardier Snow Bus. Why? Because then they, (the NPS,) would have to comply with the rules instantly. (Did you know that the only concessionaire, beside the park, still running these dinosaurs is an ex-Yellowstone Park Ranger?)
The NPS has allowed themselves and their pet concessionaire a “phased approach” to comply with BAT. HOGWASH – the Bombardier Snow Bus fleet needs to be scrapped. The money sink that these single-purpose vehicles provide is never ending. They will never be BAT. Their nostalgic value is no match for the continuing costs that will be associated with them for the foreseeable future. Might just as well demand a return to the Tally-Ho for the summer visitor. After all, methane is “natural” and the apples will add an interesting diversion to the monotonous sameness of bison poop. That’s environmental sensitivity – right? Maybe Toyota can retrofit an engine to these?
Nuts !!; just put a couple ‘Bombs’ in the transportation museum, drag them out for Ted Turner and Mike Findley, and let Mary Bowmar polish them – but don’t pretend that they are any kind of solution to winter access. Certainly they are not BAT.
If the NPS, the cheerleaders, and the philanthropies were serious about these relics and over-the-snow travel they would convince a major automaker to build them one – clean and safe and quiet and BAT! (****OOPS, they already did that; and it can be fitted with modern track systems – – so why stay wedded to an obsolete single purpose vehicle that is duplicated by a modern multi purpose vehicle?) Who is the NPS catering to? [Don’t ask this question!]
If the past directors and the current cheerleaders were really serious about the environment they would look at the savings and environmental advantages associated with plowing the roads, (instead of grooming them for private interests only.)
The NPS needs to address the environmental sensitivities and economic factors that come with using vehicles as they are designed to be used.
They had better look at dumping a fleet of “never-to-be-BAT” vehicles and realize those savings. This action would address safe access and still allow the ‘swells’ to have a pet tour guide in a big bus or van.
Riding in a Bombardier Snow Bus is like sitting inside a giant tin drum – sideways. The sound level is obnoxious. The views are impaired, and craning your neck is not the best way to enjoy the views. Entrance and egress demand a dexterity that only a Canadian Army Trooper would tolerate – of course that’s who they were designed for. These relics of WW II were designed to cram a fighting unit into a small space – not for leisurely touring of Yellowstone.
The heater is so inefficient that blankets are needed and carried by the drivers. This is probably a great bit of nostalgia, and an intriguing history lesson – but not a pleasant ride in the park. Of course, marketing and sales are king in this arena. The drivers call it “The Real Yellowstone Experience” – DUPED AGAIN. Thank you, NPS.
Do the drivers of these things really offer the passengers ear plugs? (Click HERE for an honest account of the “Real Experience.”)
Here are some hard questions regarding the Bombardier Snow Bus. Questions that the planners have avoided in the hopes that the cheerleaders and the public will ignore these obsolete, single-purpose vehicles:
1] Are these “BOMBS” as safe as converted vans and buses?
2] Do they have seat belts?
3] Are their breaking systems BAT? Windshield wipers? Windshield washers? Defoggers? Mirrors and signal lamps? Headlights? Track system? Heaters?
4] Is entrance and egress as safe in a “Bomb” as it is in the conversions? In emergency situations? Why is there a seat in the doorway? (I know the answer to this one, an additional $100 – safety be damned.)
5] Is the auditory health of visitors considered in BAT? Really, where?
6] Is there adequate, safe, and comfortable storage for all camera gear, tripods, lunch bags, crutches, walking sticks, backpacks, child-seats, luggage, and a stroller for the screaming 2-year-old? By the way is there any way to put a child seat in the things? Does the NPS care? Are the seats DOT approved? Should they be?
7] Are they accessible? Is this a Federal requirement for Yellowstone Concessionaires?
8] If these things are so good, why isn’t the NPS busy buying up a bunch of them? When was the last time they bought one for the fleet? I know where they could have gotten one for only $10,000.
9] Will the engine conversions of today still be BAT in 5 years? 10 years? Will they need more new engines? How often? Will the NPS forgive it’s own fleet?
Shame on them; and the rangers and employees that still ride 2 cycle snowmobiles! What will all this cost the taxpayer in the out years? Is this sensible policy? Is this what planners do? Is this what cheerleaders want?
I think it’s time to BAN THE BOMB!
The consequences of pretending to talk about winter access while really following a “limit public access agenda” are far reaching and do not bring about an uplifting visitor experience.
The NPS has already shown that they don’t care about pollution by preferring an alternative that allows too many snowmobiles into Yellowstone. They have also shown they don’t care by allowing one of their pet concessionaires to use diesel engines for winter access – just like the stench of summer. Is this BAT? Who defines & adjusts BAT?? Has the public ever had a chance to comment on BAT??
They have shown that they don’t care about individualized experiences by demanding that all visitors in motor coaches and snowmobiles have ‘guides.’ They have shown that they don’t care about any kind of individualized experiences – except for skiers who don’t need guides, and snowshoe travelers who don’t go too far. Skiers are saints and have never violated the park in any way; therefore there is no need to transfer the law enforcement function of the NPS to ski guides. Really?
These consequences, are going to compound themselves in the future. Here’s a few the NPS has yet to address:
1] If it’s true that bison need to leave the park to wander, why are plowed roads a problem? Do we trap the bison in the park, or do we let them roam? Elk? Wolves? Is it Yellowstone, or is it pollution, or is it snowmobiles, or is it access, or is it a winter use plan, we’re talking about?
2] Global warming is real, and even if we corrected 100% of the anthropogenic component today, the trend will continue for at least 100 years – very probably much more. Is this accounted for in the winter use plan? How? What reasons will the NPS use for limiting visitor access in 10 years? Twenty years from now? Ahhh, I get it, perpetual employment for planners.
3] Is the NPS catering to the short term concerns of the wealthy and their pet concessionaires to the detriment of the long term health of Yellowstone?
4] Is the current winter use plan a real plan, or a justification for nostalgic exploitation of Yellowstone by those that can afford $100/day? This cost of visiting the park will greatly increase as capitalists discover that they have the park held hostage; and, that only the wealthy are visiting. Of course inflation, NPS policy, and rising fuel prices will aid this.
5] Are the planners, the public, and the cheerleaders so blinded by a “snowmobile crisis” that they have ignored the real problems of the future? For instance; are Americans adjusting to increased fuel prices apace with the supposed, (summer & winter,) future visitation? Oh, I get it, you mean that the roads will need to be widened for the wealthy and their land yachts, and the poor in diesel buses – I really do get it .
Well, like I said, I’m tired of the discussion. The NPS isn’t listening, the cheerleaders aren’t listening, and certainly the wealthy never listen.
They collect Duesenbergs and Bombardiers & demand that Yellowstone build buildings and accommodations that the NPS can’t afford to maintain. They demand catered wilderness in the nostalgia of obsolete transportation. They demand that you and I stay out of their park.
I hope that the park can afford this consequence. Really, I do. I hope that someday I will be rich enough to enjoy Yellowstone in the winter – – Really!