Could Controversial New Bill Lift Yellowstone National Park Paddling Restrictions?

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A new bill, that is probably unlikely to turn into a law, may open Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park’s waterways. This proposed bill, HR3492, would help lift restrictions that have been in place since 1971. This original law limited rafts, canoes and other hand-propelled vessels to travel on all rivers, streams and lakes. In fact, currently only a mere three-mile section of waterways – between the Shoshone and Yellowstone Lakes – are open to paddlers.

There are two distinct sides to this new bill.

On the positive side, removing the ban would help promote more tourism and business for whitewater guides and other nearby water outfitters. Republicans believe there are several areas within Yellowstone National Park that could permit paddling without any adverse side effects on wildlife, fish, waters or even on people. With world-renowned popularity, lifting this bound would attract thousands more whitewater rafting enthusiasts.

People that oppose this bill believe the burden to analyze the environmental impacts will likely result in several closures throughout a three-year process, which is estimated to cost $4 million. If these studies cause shutdowns, this could cause significant financial impacts to the National Park Service.

However, if no studies are completed on possible environmental effects, and this bill were to become law, it would likely lead to commercial companies pursuing opportunities for additional income. This could lead to disruption of wildlife species.

Experts say that the original ban was put in place to help protect the park and preserve its pristine wilderness areas. Since Yellowstone is rather unpredictable and experiences a wide fluctuation of winter and summer climates, rivers would need to be constantly monitored to see if they are safe for hand propelled traveling.

Opponents of this measure also believe that defining hand-propelled vessels could present a further reduction in control over Yellowstone’s rivers, possibly opening the door to unconventional watercraft or inner tubes.

While grizzly and wolf sightings are rare, there are more common in areas that are closed or inaccessible to the public and opening rivers would make these areas far more accessible.

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition has issued support against this measure, believing it could potentially bring harm and damage to these wild lands. While some people are still concerned over this measure, statisticians believe it has a 20-percent chance or less of passing Congress.

Yellowstone Holiday offers Yellowstone RV camping just outside the West entrance to the park.



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