Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bill Would Clear Way for Recreational Paddling in Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks

Since first introducing Yellowstone National Park paddling legislation over a year ago, U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis has worked with the Wyoming paddling community to revamp the legislation in response to concerns articulated by the National Park Service and other stakeholders, culminating in her introduction of H.R. 974 last week: the Yellowstone and Grand Teton Paddling Act.

The bill would require the National Park Service to promulgate a rule allowing paddling within three years after funds are made available for such a rulemaking. The rulemaking will replace Park Service regulations passed in the 1950’s, which prohibited paddling in both parks primarily to curb overfishing. These outdated regulations have prevented the Park Service from even considering proposals from the paddling community to open up certain rivers and streams for recreational paddling like canoeing and pack rafting. Rep. Lummis included the three year window in the bill to ensure Yellowstone and Grand Teton officials have ample time to conduct the studies and analysis necessary to set new rules allowing for paddling access. The types of hand-propelled watercraft allowed on waterways in the Parks would remain at the discretion of the National Park Service.

“This bill would remove an outdated federal ban on paddling that was instituted because of overfishing but today imposes a barrier to the responsible enjoyment of these waterways by the public,” said Rep. Lummis. “I took great care to preserve the discretion of park managers to actually manage paddling as they do any other recreational activity in the parks, and to ensure park managers have the time and resources necessary to go through the proper studies and analysis. The end result will be yet another way for the public to have truly unforgettable experiences enjoying the Wyoming treasures that are Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.”

The Yellowstone and Grand Teton Paddling Act:
Reinforces the authority of park service management over waterways within their jurisdiction.

Improves an overly broad, outdated federal ban on paddling from the 1950’s only when a new management plan is in place.

Gives sufficient time according to the requests of the Park Service for the rulemaking process as well as a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review.

Ensures that the National Park Service remains in charge of all management and supervision of access for paddlers through their agency rulemaking.

Creates an open, public process where folks can ask about their priority areas and gives an avenue for assurance of conservation.

Supports the NPS’ authority to monitor hand propelled watercraft as well as charge cost recovery fees for registration.

For the bill text please click here.


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