Yellowstone National Park Amendments Fail – Barely

U.S House votes show strong support for Yellowstone protections


Sarah Wilhoite, 202-667-4500 x216
Cat Lazaroff, 202-667-4500 x 213

With two very narrow votes today, the U.S. House of Representatives expressed its concern about environmental threats to Yellowstone National Park, while failing to approve management changes that might have reduced these threats.

On a tied, 210 to 210 vote, the House voted against restricting noisy, polluting snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. At the same time, the House voted 220 to 199 to reject an attempt to protect Yellowstone’s bison herd from slaughter.

“Every House member who voted against these important amendments should be held accountable by their constituents for failing to protect America’s first National Park,” said Sarah Wilhoite, Policy Associate at Earthjustice. “Yellowstone National Park was created to preserve the wilderness quality of a natural landscape that is home to bison, bears, wolves, and other wildlife. Neither noisy snowmobiles nor indiscriminate slaughter have a place is such a setting.”

On a tie vote, the House rejected a bipartisan amendment that would have effectively phased out snowmobile use in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, by barring all federal funding for management of the polluting machines. The measure, introduced by Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ), Nick Rahall (D-WV), and Christopher Shays (R-CT), would have supported the decision made by the National Park Service in 2000 to reduce the impacts of snowmobiles, which disturb wildlife, pollute the air, and spread clouds of exhaust over such famous landmarks as Old Faithful.

The House also voted today to reject a proposal to protect Yellowstone’s herd of wild bison: the only wild, free roaming buffalo in the United States, descended from just 25 buffalo that escaped the 19th Century slaughter. An amendment offered by Rep. Rahall would have stopped the Park Service and Forest Service from spending money to slaughter bison that wander outside park boundaries. This practice, which has been subsidized by taxpayer dollars since 1991, is a misguided attempt to prevent the spread of disease known as brucellosis from bison to domestic cattle grazing on lands just outside the national park — even though no such disease transmission has ever occurred in the wild.

“It is ludicrous to spend public funds to support the senseless slaughter of these magnificent wild animals,” noted Wilhoite. “We applaud the 199 Representatives who saw this practice for what it is: a lethal subsidy for a questionable livestock management practice at the expense of one of our nation’s natural legacies.”

The Rahall amendment would have stopped the federal funding for killing buffalo in the Yellowstone herd for one year. The measure would require the National Park Service to use non-lethal methods for managing the needs of both buffalo and cattle in the Yellowstone area.

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