Monday, October 12, 2015

House Natural Resources Committee Approves Paddling Legislation in Yellowstone and Tetons

Last Thursday the House Committee on Natural Resources approved legislation that would allow the National Park Service to open up more than 450 miles of streams to paddlers in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks.

If the legislation introduced by Rep. Cynthia Lummis is signed into law, the Yellowstone and Grand Teton Paddling Act would: the Secretary of the Interior to promulgate regulations to allow the use of hand-propelled vessels on certain rivers and streams that flow in and through certain Federal lands in Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, and for other purposes.
The bill also states that:
The regulations promulgated under this section shall not apply to waters that are within the Teton Range in Grand Teton National Park south of a latitudinal line anchored at Wilcox Point and west of an approximate north-south line that generally defines the base of the mountains following the western shores of Jackson, Leigh, Jenny, Bradley, Taggart, and Phelps lakes, and extending to the southern Grand Teton National Park boundary at the base of Apres Vous Peak.
The bill also states that:
(1) NO EXPANSION OF USE. — The regulations issued under this section shall not consider any expansion of commercial use of hand-propelled vessels in the parks.

(2) SAVINGS PROVISIONS. — Nothing in this Act shall be construed as authorizing the commercial use of hand-propelled vessels.
The National Parks Conservation Association is opposed to the bill. In a press release dated on the same day, the NPCA states:
The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is disappointed that the House Committee on Natural Resources today chose to advance legislation that stands to have far-reaching, negative impacts on Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, two of our country’s crown jewels. The Yellowstone and Grand Teton Paddling Act would force the National Park Service to open up 450 miles of waterways in these parks without study or public comment. As written, this legislation could aid the spread of invasive aquatic species, damage native trout habitat, and serve to disrupt prime habitat for endangered grizzly bears.
Here are a few quotes from a press release published by Wyoming Representative Cynthia Lummis last week:
"The new rule would then replace regulations, in place since 1950, which prohibited paddling in both parks to curb overfishing. These outdated regulations have tied the hands of the Park Service from even considering proposals from the paddling community."

"The NPS will retain full management over paddling in the parks and will retain discretion on whether to go through a rulemaking to open additional waterways as it sees fit. Backcountry lake paddling management has proven that the NPS is up to the task of managing paddling on waterways while protecting natural resources."

"If passed, the end result will align Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park with other national parks across the country that offer this low-impact way for the public, and especially America’s youth, to have truly unforgettable experiences. "
To become law the measure will have to be approved by both the House and the Senate, and then signed by the president. What are your thoughts? Is this a positive measure to open up parks to a broader range of users? Or will this truly have a significant negative impact on wildlife and other natural resources? If the answer to that last question is yes, then why isn't this an issue in other parks?


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