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Saturday, July 3, 2004

Snowmobiles, Yellowstone don't mix


Your voice: Kathleen Maynard

Yellowstone National Park: What do those words evoke? Have you been there? Do you want to go there? Does it live in your imagination or in your reality? Do you expect it to always be there in all its wild glory?

I am writing in response to the article "Snowmobilers win in House parks vote" (June 18). I have just spent a week in and around Yellowstone, America's first national park. This issue is bigger than snowmobiles and snowmobile businesses.

Yellowstone National Park is an integral part of the fabric of this nation. The National Park Service was created in 1916 to manage the parks for the reasonable enjoyment and preservation for all our citizenry. Yellowstone is a significant part of this country's only fully intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states. This means that within its 2.2 million acres its heart beats wild and healthy and whole, with a vast array of species that have been there since before "we" were here. Yellowstone National Park, and the vision that is Yellowstone, deserves our best selves, are bravest decisions and very soft human footprints.

If statistics rule the world - as they seem to - then the most important one I would like to quote concerning this divisive debate is the following: "During six different public comment periods, nearly half a million citizens have urged the National Park Service, by a 4-to-1 margin, to protect Yellowstone National Park by replacing snowmobile use with snow coaches." The thousands of yearly snowmobilers using the expensively groomed roads of the park will have access to 13,000 miles of snowmobile routes in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana that are unaffected by the Yellowstone amendment. Setting aside 180 miles of quiet land within park boundaries surely is not asking too much.

The plan to ban snowmobile use within the park and to replace some of that motorized individual freedom with snow coaches on appropriate roads in the less fragile areas was never about removing people from Yellowstone. It's about efficiently and cooperatively working toward a real solution for the appropriate use of a valuable, very fragile and important piece of the American landscape; for responsible, conservative use that ensures our park's healthy and vibrant future.

The howl of a lone wolf above the Lamar Valley in the heart of Yellowstone as the sun rises over a winter white world cannot be heard over the din of an engine, no matter that it is cleaner and more efficient. I don't know about you, but I can hear enough engines to fill many lifetimes, right here, right now.

Kathleen Maynard of Cincinnati travels the world in search of birds of prey and tells their stories.

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