Bipartisan 7 Out of 8 Living Former National Park Service Directors Urge Interior Sec. Kempthorne to Change Course on Yellowstone Snowmobiles

Former Leaders Praise Administration's Requested Park Funding Increase, But

Caution That Allowing Additional Yellowstone Snowmobiling Would 'Radically

Contravene' Kempthorne Pledge.

Mar 26, 2007, 01:00 ET from The Hastings Group, Rosslyn, VA (on behalf of the signers)

    WASHINGTON, March 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Every living former
 director of the National Park Service (NPS) -- except one -- has joined in
 a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne urging him to ensure a
 continued transition away from snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park.
     Spanning every Democratic and Republican presidential administration
 from Lyndon Baines Johnson to Bill Clinton, the seven former NPS leaders
 say a proposal to allow a return of more snowmobile use in Yellowstone
 would undercut Kempthorne's commitment to emphasize conservation in the
 national parks and circumvent policies he endorsed last year that require
 the highest protection of air quality, visitor enjoyment of natural quiet,
 and other national park resources and values.
     Seven former directors of the National Park Service signed the letter:
 George B. Hartzog, Jr. (1964-1972), Ronald H. Walker (1973-1975), Gary
 Everhardt (1975-1977), Russell E. Dickenson (1980-1985), James M. Ridenour
 (1989-1993), Roger G. Kennedy (1993-1997) and Robert Stanton (1997-2001).
 Collectively, the seven led stewardship efforts in the national parks for
 presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and
     Only Fran Mainella, who resigned last July as NPS director (2001-2006)
 and is constrained for one year by ethics rules, did not sign the letter.
     In the joint letter, the former leaders tell Kempthorne: "Your strong
 declaration of support for the longstanding management policies that have
 governed the life of the parks reassured the American public and the
 Congress that you will insist upon the highest protection of park resources
 and values and will not allow uses and activities that conflict with this
 founding principle of the national parks."
     "Given this, we must express our alarm over a proposal in Yellowstone
 National Park that would radically contravene both the spirit and letter of
 the 2006 Management Policies. The proposal is to escalate snowmobile use as
 much as three-fold over current average numbers even though scientific
 studies have demonstrated conclusively that a two-thirds reduction in
 average snowmobile numbers during the past four winters is principally
 responsible for significantly improving the health of the park for
 visitors, employees and wildlife."
     The letter continues: "The latest National Park Service study
 illuminates in detail that allowing Yellowstone's current average of 250
 snowmobiles per day to increase -- to as many as 720 snowmobiles -- would
 undercut the park's resurgent natural conditions ... The study also
 provides clear evidence that reducing snowmobile numbers still further --
 from 250 per day to zero -- while expanding public access on modern
 snowcoaches, would further improve the park's health."
     The letter notes that four National Park Service studies of snowmobile
 impacts in Yellowstone conducted since 1998 have cumulatively cost $10
 million and have produced consistent findings by the agency that "greater
 volumes of traffic required by an emphasis upon snowmobiling add
 dramatically to air and noise pollution and disturbance of Yellowstone's
 wildlife ... On at least three occasions, the Environmental Protection
 Agency has independently corroborated that providing access by modern
 snowcoach and phasing out the use of snowmobiles will provide Yellowstone's
 visitors, employees and wildlife with dramatically healthier conditions."
     The letter praises Kempthorne's requested increase in operational
 funding for the National Park System. Calling his request "history-making,"
 the former park leaders state: "The eroding condition and health of
 irreplaceable natural, historic and cultural treasures is painful to
 witness, as is the decline in resource protection and visitor education
 programs. We admire your commitment to reverse these declines."
     However, the former leaders direct their strongest words toward a
 proposal to allow more, not fewer, snowmobiles in the country's first
 national park saying the proposal ignores consistent and newly verified
 scientific findings, over 80 percent of the public comments received by the
 National Park Service, and specific park policies that Kempthorne has
 pledged to uphold.
     "You were right to call them the 'lifeblood' of our country's
 commitment to its national parks," the eleven signers conclude. "Ensuring
 that these policies are upheld in Yellowstone is one of the greatest
 contributions that you can make to the future of our National Park System."
     Also signing the joint letter were Nathaniel P. Reed, assistant
 secretary of the Interior (1971-1976), William J. Briggle, NPS deputy
 director (1975- 1977), Denis P. Galvin, NPS deputy director (1985-1989 and
 1998-2002) and Michael V. Finley, Yellowstone National Park superintendent
     The full text of the letter is available online at

SOURCE The Hastings Group, Rosslyn, VA (on behalf of the signers)