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Wolfseeker News 3/1/04

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  • Pat Morris
    * Final Wolf-Management Bill Dies (WY) * Denali Pack s Alpha Wolf Dies Outside Buffer (AK) * WY: Sensitive Drilling Struggle Intensifies (UT) * 12 Most
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2004
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      * Final Wolf-Management Bill Dies (WY)
      * Denali Pack's Alpha Wolf Dies Outside Buffer (AK)
      * WY: Sensitive Drilling Struggle Intensifies (UT)
      * 12 Most Threatened Wildlands in the Americas (NRDC)
      * Free-Range Fields Touted For Bison (Canada)
      * One-Year Anniversary Provides Window into Yellowstone's Struggle to Move Forward (MT)
      * Opinion: Listen To Yellowstone's Other Winter Visitors (MT)

      Final wolf-management bill dies
      Associated Press

      CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Wyoming's case against the federal government over the rejection of its wolf-management plan may now be a little murky after the final bill dealing with the issue died in the Senate.

      House Bill 111 failed to get out of the Senate Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee on Friday, committee chair Sen. Delaine Roberts, R-Etna, said.

      Bills must be forwarded out of committee by Monday, and Roberts' committee is not scheduled to meet that day.

      "It would have created a whole big hearing to rehash what we've hashed over already," Roberts said of the measure. "I didn't want the committee and the Senate to be subjected to another big debate on the wolves."

      The bill would have aligned state law with Wyoming's wolf-management plan, which was rejected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in January over its classification of wolves as trophy game and predators.

      Conforming state statutes to the plan is seen as a way to strengthen the state's hand in a possible lawsuit.

      HB111 would have retained the dual classification system. Another measure aimed at changing the state's plan to match demands of the federal government died after not being scheduled for debate in the House.

      Rep. Mike Baker, R-Thermopolis, said HB111 would have strengthened the state's hand in court by making its laws consistent with the plan.

      "The state is in the position that it is not as legally defensible as it could have been," he said.

      Such inconsistencies could weaken the state's case, Baker said.

      "Small things can destroy big intentions, sink large ships," he said. "Did we write this as clearly as we could have? And the answer is 'no.' "

      Roberts felt otherwise.

      "I don't think it has any bearing on what we do in the future at all," he said.

      Wolves, eradicated in Wyoming in the early 20th century for killing livestock, were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1995 and have since thrived. Twelve packs of wolves now inhabit the park and six packs roam outside it.

      The Interior Department is prepared to remove wolves from federal protection but only when it deems Wyoming's plan acceptable for maintaining viable populations in the Northern Rockies.

      Management plans adopted by Idaho and Montana already have been approved.


      Denali pack's alpha wolf dies outside buffer
      TRAPPED: Game Board debates need for the zone.

      The Associated Press

      (Published: February 29, 2004)

      FAIRBANKS -- A trapper told the Alaska Board of Game on Friday that he trapped and killed the leader of one of two wolf packs regularly seen by tourists in Denali National Park.

      A biologist whose work is supported by an animal rights group said Saturday nine other wolves in the 12-member pack also were unaccounted for.

      The wolf had strayed outside a no-trapping, no-hunting buffer zone established by a previous board four years ago to protect a pair of wolf packs that roam in and out of the eastern corner of Alaska's most famous park.

      Sitting before the seven-member board wearing a camouflage ball cap, Brent Keith said he trapped the alpha male of the Mount Margaret pack Wednesday after watching the pack consume a cow moose they had killed less than a half mile from his house.

      "I watched them for five days," Keith said. "They were four-tenths of a mile from my house. I listened to them (howling) every night, and finally I went out and put some snares out there.

      "I figured I'd tell you about it before you read it in the paper," Keith said.

      Biologist Gordon Haber, whose work has been supported by Friends of Animals, observes the pack frequently and said that as of Feb. 17, the wolves seemed fine. But in flights last week, he could locate only two of the 12 wolves, and he fears others may have been killed -- if not by Keith, perhaps by another trapper.

      "It's basically that group has been decimated," Haber said in a telephone interview Saturday. He has argued that the buffer zone to protect the wolves was inadequate.

      Friday was the first of at least two days of public testimony at a meeting to review and revise hunting and trapping regulations throughout the Interior, including possible elimination of the Denali Buffer Zone.

      The 55-square-mile zone has been a hot-button issue since it was created four years ago by a game board appointed by then-Gov. Tony Knowles.

      The more hunter- and trapper-friendly board put in place by current Gov. Frank Murkowski a year ago is now looking at several proposals to dissolve the buffer.

      Trappers and hunters like Keith argue there is no biological justification for the buffer and that it is an unnecessary restriction to placate animal-rights activists.

      "There are plenty of wolves running around in that area," Keith said, adding that at least five packs roam the area he traps. "These wolves will replace themselves.

      "I think people should be concerned about the caribou herd in that area," he said, referring to the struggling Denali Caribou Herd. "Nothing is going to replace that caribou herd when it's gone."

      Wildlife viewers and animal-rights groups, meanwhile, contend that the buffer zone helps protect a valuable aspect of Alaska's tourism industry.

      Vic Van Ballenberghe of Anchorage, a wildlife biologist who was on the Game Board when the buffer zone was created, urged the board to keep it in place even if it is too small to fully protect the wolves.

      "It's the one spot in the state where you stand a decent chance of seeing wolves or hearing them howl," he said. "It represents a high value of viewing that needs to be preserved.

      "If you rank the animals we have in Alaska and the demand to see those animals, wolves rank near the top of the list."

      Board member Pete Buist said each time a wolf pack gets displaced by hunting, trapping or natural mortality, another pack moves in. Five wolf packs have lived in the area in the last 20 years, he said.

      "Do you think tourists can tell the difference between those packs?" Buist asked.

      But Van Ballenberghe said it takes a pack of wolves time to become tolerant of humans so they can be viewed on a reliable basis, and constant turnover of packs hinders viewing opportunities.

      "So what you're saying is the buffer zone will allow tourists a better chance of seeing a habituated wolf?" Buist asked. "Is that what you mean by 'tolerant'?"

      Defenders of Wildlife representative Karen Deatherage said her group is working with the National Park Service to educate park visitors about viewing wolves to decrease habituation issues.


      Sensitive drilling struggle intensifies

      By Elizabeth Shogren
      Los Angeles Times

      PINEDALE, Wyo. -- The cluster of mule deer munching on sagebrush peeking out of the snow seems unfazed by the screeching, whooshing and clanging from the drilling rig fewer than 100 feet away.
      But as they quietly graze on this wind-swept plateau in southwestern Wyoming, these animals are at the center of an intensifying tug of war over the fate of vast stretches of federal land in the Rocky Mountains.
      Their chosen feeding spot on this frigid winter day, the Pinedale Anticline, has been a crucial winter range and migratory corridor for big game for thousands of years. During the winter, it hosts Serengeti-like congregations of animals -- about 100,000 mule deer, pronghorn, moose, elk and bighorn sheep. In the past few years, it has also become a booming natural gas field, supplying clean energy to heat and cool houses and fuel electric power plants throughout the West.
      The anticline is a broad stretch -- 35 miles long and six miles wide -- of relatively flat land between two majestic mountain ranges, the Wind River and Wyoming, that creates a natural corridor for wildlife. Underlying it is a geological formation, 14,000 feet deep, where pockets of natural gas lie trapped in sand.
      Gas production in the anticline was supposed to be a model of how energy could be extracted without destroying other uses of the land, such as wildlife habitat and big game hunting.
      Now, the gas field is being developed at least twice as rapidly as predicted and gas companies and local hunting and conservation communities sharply disagree whether enough is being done to protect the wildlife. To Courtney Skinner, 67, who with his brothers runs an outfitting business in Pinedale, the answer is a resounding "no."
      "They're moving very, very rapidly and pushing the number of wells way beyond reason," said Skinner, who has lived in Pinedale since childhood.
      To Ron Hogan, general manager of the Pinedale operations for Salt Lake City-based Questar Corp., the presence of mule deer next to his company's rig shows that wildlife and gas drilling can peacefully coexist.
      Four years ago, the federal government gave operators permission to construct 700 producing well pads on the anticline over 10 to 15 years, but banned drilling from Nov. 15 to April 30 because of the special importance of the range to the herds in winter. But for the second consecutive year, the Bureau of Land Management, which administers these federal lands, has granted Questar an exception, allowing the natural-gas company to drill multiple wells from a single pad through the winter. By drilling directionally, or at an angle, rather than straight down, more than one well can be based on a single pad -- a technique that minimizes surface disturbance.
      The exception granted Questar exemplifies the Bush administration's efforts to expedite energy production on public lands across the West.
      But biologists, hunters and conservationists warn that development here and elsewhere in the Upper Green River Basin threatens herds of game that summer in Grand Teton National Park and other wild areas. Similar concerns are heard up and down the Rocky Mountains.
      Questar's goal is to persuade the BLM to permit expansion of winter drilling to at least three well pads, each with two rigs. The company is funding a study on the impact of energy development on the mule deer population in hopes of bolstering its case.


      NRDC Announces Annual BioGems List of 12 Most Threatened Wildlands in the Americas

      Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau, Alaska's Western Arctic Reserve, Canada's Boreal Forest Added to 2004 Endangered List
      WASHINGTON (February 26, 2004) - NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council) today announced its new 2004 BioGems list of the dozen most endangered places in the Americas. Over the coming year, the BioGems initiative -- NRDC's international campaign to protect the Western Hemisphere's imperiled wilderness -- will mobilize citizen action to defend these 12 extraordinary areas, ranging from the Arctic to the Amazon (see www.savebiogems.org).

      "With the help of hundreds of thousands of activists, we have won seven major battles over the last three years, protecting thousands of square miles of pristine wilderness," said Jacob Scherr, director of NRDC's International Program. "NRDC's BioGems campaign is a modern David, taking on the Goliaths of industry and their political allies. Our slingshot is the Internet."

      Three sites are new to the BioGems list for 2004: the Cumberland Plateau in Southeastern United States, the Western Arctic Reserve in northern Alaska, and the Heart of the Boreal Forest in central Canada. The remaining nine sites, which include the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and the Macal River Valley in Belize, are 2003 BioGems still at risk. NRDC, its local coalition partners, and hundreds of thousands of activists were able to fend off development in those areas last year, but they are facing renewed threats this year.

      "Industry wants to turn our old-growth forests into toilet paper, and industrialize our last pristine wilderness areas for relatively little oil," said Johanna Wald, director of NRDC's Land Program. "The public is rising up and saying 'No more.' There are better, cleaner and more economical alternatives to destroying our natural heritage."

      NRDC launched its BioGems initiative in 2001 to empower citizens to save some of the Western Hemisphere's last wild and unspoiled places. Since then, NRDC's 1 million members and Internet activists have generated more than 3 million messages of protest to corporations and governments planning to despoil wilderness and wildlife habitats.

      This public outcry proved critical last year in ensuring two victories. On the eve of the war in Iraq, the Bush administration put tremendous pressure on the U.S. Senate to approve the centerpiece of its energy plan: opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development. More than 50,000 messages to Congress helped make the case that drilling in the Arctic Refuge would be the slowest, most destructive and least effective way to try to ensure U.S. energy security. The Senate dealt the administration a stunning setback by voting 52 to 48 to block oil development in the refuge. In South America, an outpouring of messages from BioGems Defenders helped persuade Alcoa and other aluminum companies to abandon plans for a massive dam on Brazil's Araguaia River that would have submerged a large stretch of rainforest -- home to black saki monkeys and rare pink dolphins -- and displaced 7,000 people.

      Last year, NRDC's BioGems campaign also played a key role in protecting Yellowstone National Park after the Bush administration overturned a National Park Service plan that would have banned noisy, polluting snowmobiles inside the park. BioGem Defenders sent 100,000 messages of protest, and NRDC went to court and won a major victory. But a few weeks later, another court issued a conflicting decision in a similar case, and both cases are on appeal. The Yellowstone area remains on the BioGems list this year as the battle continues to save the park, its wildlife, and the surrounding area from degradation.

      New BioGems for 2004
      NRDC is launching new BioGems campaigns to protect the Cumberland Plateau in the Southeastern United States, the Western Arctic Reserve in the northwest corner of Alaska, and the Heart of the Boreal Forest in Manitoba and Ontario.

      The storied Cumberland Plateau extends from West Virginia and Kentucky through Tennessee to Alabama. Boasting the largest concentration of endangered species in North America, this island of wild woods is now being clearcut for toilet paper, newsprint and office paper. This year, NRDC will target the corporations responsible for this devastation with a massive consumer education campaign.

      Alaska's Western Arctic Reserve, labeled the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska in the 1920s, is the largest untouched Arctic wilderness in the United States. This remote and primeval landscape provides calving grounds for the 450,000-member Western Arctic caribou herd, and is also home to polar and grizzly bears, Arctic wolves, millions of migratory birds and, offshore, 3,500 beluga whales. The Bush administration plans to turn over more than half of the reserve to energy companies. NRDC is fighting this giveaway in court and mobilizing its BioGems Defenders to protest.

      The Heart of the Boreal Forest in Canada is a key section of the great northern forest that rings the globe. There, amidst the pine trees and boggy marshes, billions of the Western Hemisphere's most beloved songbirds -- warblers, chickadees and many others -- build their nests and raise their fledglings every summer before flying south. This region is now threatened by plans to build hydroelectric dams and transmission lines that would slice through its very core.

      Other U.S. BioGems
      In the United States, Alaska is once again a prime target of the Bush administration's energy policy. The White House and Senate leaders have vowed to try once more to open the spectacular Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development, and NRDC will continue to block the administration's efforts to industrialize the refuge. Employing a combination of citizen action and legal counterattack, NRDC also will defend Alaska's Tongass National Forest, the world's largest remaining temperate rainforest, where the Bush administration is rushing to sell off vast stretches at rock bottom prices for industrial clearcutting.

      In the lower 48 states, the BioGems campaign will continue to defend Utah's redrock canyons and the Yellowstone-Greater Rockies region in the face of administration plans to authorize an invasion of oil and gas industry rigs, roads and pipelines that would threaten some of the nation's most important wildlife populations. In the Everglades, NRDC will wage a courtroom battle against a corporate-backed scheme, approved by the Bush administration, to turn 5,000 acres of the world's most famous wetlands habitat into a series of limestone mining pits.

      Other Canadian BioGems
      In the Canadian province of Alberta, the Shell Oil Company is pressing ahead with oil and gas development in the Castle and Bighorn wildlands, vital pieces in our continent's last major north-south pathway for wolves, bears, cougars and lynx.

      Central and South American BioGems
      In Central America, the BioGems campaign will continue its four-year old fight against a scheme to dam Belize's Macal River and flood the surrounding rainforest, one of the wildest places left on the continent. Despite a recent courtroom setback, NRDC will increase worldwide pressure on Fortis Inc., the billion-dollar Canadian company behind the dam, until it cancels this destructive and unnecessary hydroelectric project. In South America, NRDC will intensify campaigns to protect Peru's TahuamanĂș Rainforest and Chile's Olivillo Coastal Forest. Last year, NRDC helped win a decade-long battle to establish tighter trade restrictions on the old-growth mahogany trees that are being illegally logged in TahuamanĂș to meet U.S. consumer demand. In 2004, NRDC will be working to eradicate the market for illegal mahogany that is killing the Peruvian Amazon. Chile's Olivillo Forest, a haven for hundreds of species found nowhere else on Earth, won a reprieve last year when NRDC helped secure safeguards against logging and roadbuilding. Now, NRDC is pressing both Chile and the United States to protect the Olivillo permanently following the signing of a new bilateral trade agreement.

      The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Santa Monica and San Francisco.


      Free-range fields touted for bison
      Scientists urge return to native prairies

      Grady Semmens
      Calgary Herald

      Sunday, February 29, 2004

      Replacing wheat fields and cattle ranches with herds of free-roaming bison is the best way to restore the prairies to their natural state, according to scientists and conservationists who want to save North America's vanishing grasslands and animals.

      While ranchers say the idea is interesting but unpractical, wildlife experts argue that reintroducing plains bison, also known as buffalo, to vast tracts of agricultural land in southern Alberta could help the economy and the environment.

      "Bison were the keystone species on the plains. They shaped the environment," said Delaney Burton, a Calgary ecologist and bison specialist with the World Conservation Union.

      "You can run a profitable ranch with bison by just putting them on the land and leaving them alone. They're heartier than cattle and they take care of themselves," she said.

      Burton researched the status of North America's remaining bison herds for her master's degree at the University of Calgary.

      She spoke here Saturday at an international conference on prairie conservation.

      Burton said the best way to ensure the continued survival of wild bison is to create large areas where the animals could live on their traditional range with minimal interference from people.

      They once numbered as many as 100 million.

      Of the estimated 500,000 bison now in North America, Burton said, less than 700 can be considered disease-free wild animals that are free of constant handling by humans.

      Instead of keeping herds isolated in wilderness parks around the continent, Burton said, farmers, ranchers, governments and First Nations groups could pool huge swaths of land where bison could roam in their natural state while providing a sustainable food source for humans.

      "All bison herds need to be culled or they will grow out of control," she said.

      "They can fulfil the same grazing function on the prairie as cattle but they don't need as much water, they aren't afraid to go up hills and they don't calve during blizzards. You don't have to constantly manage them."

      Plains buffalo were nearly exterminated in the 1800s due to overhunting and loss of habitat to agricultural development due to European settlement on the prairies.

      The idea is at the heart of a plan to restore the native environment of the Great Plains put forward by more than a dozen conservation groups that want to create an unbroken grassland stretching from Nebraska to southeastern Alberta.

      "Instead of Africa, people used to come on safari to see the plains teeming with bison, elk, pronghorn antelope, and predators like grizzly bears and wolves," said Curt Freese, director of the World Wildlife Fund's plains division.

      The WWF is one of 16 American and Canadian conservation groups that have formed the Northern Plains Conservation Network to lobby for "large-scale" conservation and restoration of prairies in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska.

      Saskatoon-area rancher Allen Patkau said bison have advantages over cattle but said wild buffalo will never take the place of cows.

      "The logistics and practicality of doing that would be impossible," Patkau said.

      "We've spent the last 100 years developing a cattle industry and it would take a lot of time to change that. The way it is right now it's more expensive to raise bison than cattle."


      One-Year Anniversary Provides Window into Yellowstone's Struggle to Move Forward

      BOZEMAN, Mont., Feb. 20 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following was released today by The Wilderness Society:

      "The administration ignores scientific studies that don't support Bush's political agenda."

      -- Denver Post editorial, February 13, 2004

      One year ago today, on February 20, 2003, the National Park Service published a two-year study of winter use in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Conducted at the request of the Bush administration to satisfy a lawsuit brought by the snowmobile industry, the study verified what the National Park Service had determined two years earlier. The two-volume study concluded that banning snowmobiles in the parks and increasing public access on snowcoaches:

      "...best preserves the unique historic, cultural and natural resources associated with Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks...yields the lowest levels of impacts to air quality, water quality, natural soundscapes, and wildlife...attains the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without degradation...by ensuring that visitors to the parks have appropriate opportunities to experience and enjoy the parks in a safe manner that causes the least amount of damage to the environment."

      That study cost $2.4 million. One month later, the Bush administration rejected its conclusion and announced a decision not only to continue, but also to increase, snowmobile use in Yellowstone.

      "That was the key moment," said Thomas Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association. "Equipped with its own study, and the knowledge of what was best for Yellowstone and the health, safety, and enjoyment of visitors, the administration turned away from its own science. It chose to serve, not the public interest, but the snowmobile industry."

      "The truth is that Yellowstone and its gateway communities could have completed a transition by now, if the Bush administration had supported a National Park Service decision based solidly on the law that protects our national parks," said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society.

      Two months ago, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the administration's decision to increase, rather than ban, snowmobile use, is illegal. He wrote:

      "In light of its clear conservation mandate, and the previous conclusion that snowmobile use amounted to unlawful impairment, the Agency (Park Service) is under an obligation to explain this 180 degree reversal. NPS has not met this obligation." -December 16 ruling, pages 30-31.

      "Indeed, there is evidence in the Record that there isn't an explanation for this change, and that the SEIS was completely politically driven and result oriented." -December 16 ruling, Footnote no. 11, page 31.

      Judge Sullivan ordered the National Park Service to implement its original decision and begin phasing out snowmobile use. The phase-out began with the winter season's opening day on December 17. Visitors and guides immediately began reporting improvements in Yellowstone's air quality, and in their opportunities to hear the park's geysers and other natural sounds. Rangers reported no longer needing respirators.

      Now, another federal judge has temporarily blocked the snowmobile phase-out on grounds that the change in policy has hurt gateway businesses that rent snowmobiles for in-park use.

      Ironically, the decision to phase out snowmobile use, first announced by the National Park Service in November 2000, foresaw the need for a gradual transition. The decision called for a three-year phase-out of snowmobile use to give gateway businesses time to change from snowmobiles to snowcoaches. In contrast, the Bush administration's call for another study, then its rejection of that study's findings, led to this winter's confusion. In essence, businesses bought snowmobiles and marketed snowmobile vacations based on assurances from the Bush administration. But even as the administration made those assurances, it had every reason to believe, based on its own study, that a continuation of snowmobile use would be ruled illegal, as it was on December 16, 2003.

      "In Yellowstone, just as we are seeing in other places, the Bush administration's rejection of information that it didn't want to hear is getting us into big trouble," said Meadows. "Everyone will ultimately benefit if we do what the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency have twice concluded offers the best protection for Yellowstone and the health of visitors and workers. It's time to move forward."



      Guest Opinion: Listen to Yellowstone's other winter visitors

      By BETSY ROBINSON - Natural history tour guide
      Saturday, February 21, 2004

      I was disappointed to read two articles in the Gazette recently concerning
      snowmobiling in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The first article
      stated that Rep. Denny Rehberg is considering legislation that would take us
      backward, not forward, on the issue of snowmobiles in Yellowstone. The second
      article was about Wyoming Judge Clarence Brimmer's reversal of Judge Sullivan's
      reinstatement of the original snowmobile phase-out. This is an issue that has
      dragged on for six years now, cost taxpayers millions of dollars and left many
      people in limbo concerning everything from business decisions to vacation
      plans. The time has come to put it to rest.

      Ignoring nonmotorized needs

      This latest move by Rep. Rehberg, drafting a bill that would overturn the ban
      on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, is pure political
      posturing, designed to placate a small number of folks who are resisting a
      change that is good for Yellowstone's health, the health of Yellowstone's staff
      and visitors and in the best interests of our region and country. What is
      really disappointing is that Rehberg is ignoring the majority of the public in
      his haste to take care of a small group of business owners in West Yellowstone.
      Most winter recreationists are nonmotorized, and for decades now we have been
      ignored in our quest to enjoy these two beautiful parks in quiet and safety.
      During that time, few congressmen or senators came to us and asked how
      snowmobiling in these parks affected us. Yet each time the National Park
      Service sought public comment, overwhelming percentages of citizens urged an
      end to snowmobile use in our first national park.

      I work as a natural history tour guide. As an independent contractor, I lead
      trips throughout the Western United States and Alaska, spending about half of
      my time as a guide in Yellowstone. I have heard repeatedly from clients that
      they would love to see Yellowstone in the winter but don't want to have to
      experience the snowmobiles, so they stay away. The people who sign up to come
      on my tours come to Yellowstone to see the wildlife and to enjoy one of the
      last places in the lower 48 states where they can actually experience wild
      nature without having to ski or snowshoe into the backcountry.

      For 11 years now I have watched people's faces as long lines of snowmobiles
      passed our snowcoach, drowning out the sounds of the Firehole and Madison
      rivers, chasing the bison that we had just been photographing and leaving
      behind unpleasant and unhealthy exhaust. Almost universally, my clients have
      been very displeased by the presence of snowmobiles and lamented the fact that
      when we walk around the geyser basin at Old Faithful, they couldn't hear the
      sounds of geysers erupting because of the constant drone of snowmobiles.

      Sounds of the Firehole

      This year things are better. They aren't perfect, but improved. For the first
      time since my first winter visit to Old Faithful in 1992, I snowshoed up to
      Observation Point, which is 200 feet above Old Faithful and about a half mile
      away, and could actually hear the Firehole River flowing below. My group and I
      could hear the splashing of the water as Old Faithful erupted. At first I
      couldn't figure out what that sound was - I had never heard it before! But on a
      quiet afternoon in the Upper Geyser Basin, with no snowmobiles running and a
      snowcoach running in the distance, I could finally hear the sounds of
      Yellowstone. Why should visitors to Yellowstone be denied this wonderful

      Yellowstone and the majority of its visitors are better off without the
      presence of snowmobiles, and there is plenty of space for snowmobiles to play
      outside the park. Everyone can still access Yellowstone in the winter by road
      through the north entrance and through four other entrances on snowcoaches.
      This is a good opportunity for the business owners in West Yellowstone to
      diversify the economy of that town and not be completely dependent on one
      source of income.

      Judge Brimmer made a statement to the effect that no federal judge in
      Washington should make decisions that affect Wyoming. In fact, Yellowstone
      National Park does not belong to Wyoming, or to Montana; Yellowstone is a
      national park, created for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. All the




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