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US Environmental Record

National Parks

Project: US Environmental Issues
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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On his first day in office, President Bush has his chief of staff, Andrew Card, issue directives to every executive department with authority over environmental issues, and orders them to immediately put on hold dozens of regulations passed by the Clinton administration. The Clinton regulations include lowering arsenic levels in drinking water; reducing the release of raw sewage into rivers and streams; setting limits on logging, drilling, and mining on public lands; increasing energy efficiency standards; and banning snowmobiles from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. [Carter, 2004, pp. 127]

Entity Tags: Andrew Card, Clinton administration, George W. Bush

Category Tags: National Parks, Public land use, Air pollution, Water pollution, Appointments and resignations

Emission by type of vehicleEmission by type of vehicle [Source: National Park Service] (click image to enlarge)The National Park Service (NPS) announces a plan to reverse a Clinton-era ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The NPS proposal would limit the number of snowmobiles permitted in the parks per day to 1,100 by December 2003. However, beginning with the 2004-2005 winter season, there would be no restrictions on the number of snowmobiles permitted in the parks. [Associated Press, 11/12/2002; Associated Press, 11/12/2002] The proposal is made despite the National Park Service having received some 360,000 emails and letters on the issue, eighty percent of which were in support of the ban. [United Press International, 11/11/2002] Lifting the ban on snowmobiles would have a considerable impact given that according to the EPA’s own figures, the emissions from a single snowmobile can equal that of 100 automobiles. [Blue Water Network, 1999; National Park Service, 5/2000; Environmental Protection Agency, 2001] The EPA had recommended in 1999 that snowmobiles be barred from the two parks in order to provide the “best available protection” for air quality, wildlife and the health of people visiting and working in the park. After coming to office, the Bush administration ordered a review of the policy as part of a settlement with snowmobile manufacturers who had challenged the ban. [Associated Press, 11/12/2002]

Entity Tags: Yellowstone National Park, Bush administration (43), National Park Service (NPS), Environmental Protection Agency, Grand Teton National Park

Category Tags: National Parks, Snowmobile regulation, Snowmobile Industry

Assistant Secretary of the Interior Craig Manson writes to the State of Montana and withdraws a December 2002 environmental impact assessment conducted by National Park Service scientists which had concluded that the emissions from a proposed 780-megawatt coal-fired Roundup Power Plant would negatively affect visibility and air quality at Yellowstone National Park, located 112 miles away from the plant’s proposed site. Manson, a former Sacramento judge, claims that “weather events” had skewed the results of the study. [National Parks Magazine, 3/2003; PEER, 3/16/2003; Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 10/31/2003; Perks, 4/2004, pp. 28 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Craig Manson, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: National Parks, Air pollution, Energy industry, Round Up power plant

The National Park Service (NPS) releases its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which favors an option to reverse the November 2000 decision to ban all snowmobiles from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks by the 2003-2004 winter season (see November 12, 2002). The new EIS—done at a cost of $2.4 million to taxpayers—results from the settlement of a lawsuit that had been filed by the state of Wyoming and the snowmobile industry to reverse the November 2000 ban. The study concludes that the “preferred option” would be to phase in a requirement that all snowmobiles used in the park be four-stroke sleds and that all operators be required to either hire a guide, pass a guide’s course or accompany someone who has passed it. [Yellowstone National Park, 2/20/2003; Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 2/21/2003] Former NPS leaders condemn the report’s recommendation, insisting that the 2000 plan—backed by earlier scientific studies which had determined a strict ban would be the best policy to protect air quality, sound emissions, wildlife and human health, and safety—remains the most popular with the public. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 2/21/2003; Caspar Star Tribune, 2/21/2003] Critics have warned that reversing the ban would generate significantly more air pollution in the park—twice the carbon monoxide and six times the nitrogen oxide as the November 2000 ban. [US Congress, 3/13/2002; Caspar Star Tribune, 2/21/2003] The decision to halt the phase-out is well-received by industry leaders. “We are grateful that the Bush administration has given this issue a closer look,” Clark Collins, executive director of the Blue Ribbon Coalition, tells the Boseman’s Daily Chronicle. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 2/21/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), National Park Service (NPS)

Category Tags: National Parks, Air pollution, Snowmobile Industry, Snowmobile regulation

The National Park Service decides to reverse the Clinton administration’s decision to prohibit snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The decision ignores earlier scientific analysis concluding that a snowmobile ban is the preferred policy to protect air quality, sound emissions, wildlife, human health and safety (see February 20, 2003). [USA Today, 4/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Yellowstone National Park, Bush administration (43), Grand Teton National Park, National Park Service (NPS)

Category Tags: National Parks, Snowmobile regulation

Interior Secretary Gale Norton presents President George Bush with a report detailing the achievements of the National Park Service. The report calls attention to the $2.9 billion that the Bush administration says it has set aside for the park’s maintenance backlog. [National Park Service, 7/2/2003] But the figure is misleading because it actually refers the park’s entire maintenance budget. Only $370 million of that amount represents funds allocated to the maintenance backlog. Moreover, as the National Parks Conservation Association notes, “the president’s budget is [actually] contributing to the backlog by ignoring the annual needs of the national parks, which continue to operate with only two-thirds of the needed funding.” [Salt Lake Tribune, 7/9/2003; CNN, 8/15/2003; Salt Lake Tribune, 8/16/2003] According to the General Accounting Office, the Park Service needs upwards of $6.8 billion to complete the deferred maintenance and repairs. Critics of the administration’s record also note that the administration’s lax enforcement of clean air policies and its plan to replace some parks’ staff with private contractors are serious threats to the national park system. [Salt Lake Tribune, 8/16/2003]

Entity Tags: Gale A. Norton, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), National Park Service (NPS)

Category Tags: National Parks, Key Events

The National Park Service issues a final rule announcing that the number of snowmobiles permitted in Yellowstone Park will be restricted to 950 per day when parks open for the winter season on December 17. Eighty percent of the sleds must be commercially guided and meet “best available technology” (BAT) requirements. The remaining twenty percent will not have to be BAT. For the 2004-2005 winter, regulations on the maximum daily number of snowmobiles will remain the same, except that all snowmobiles will be required to meet BAT standards. Similar rules will be imposed on the use of snowmobiles in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway. [National Park Service, 12/11/2003] The decision is made in spite of the fact that independent federal studies had previously determined that reversing the Clinton-era phase-out would result in a significant increase of carbon monoxide pollution and nitrogen oxide emissions. [Caspar Star Tribune, 2/21/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), National Park Service (NPS), Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park

Category Tags: National Parks, Snowmobile Industry, Snowmobile regulation, Key Events

Of course, we don’t want to be embarrassed,” he adds. Included in the memo is a list of suggested cut backs: “Close the visitor center on all federal holidays,” “Eliminate all guided ranger tours,” “Let the manicured grasslands grow all summer,” “Eliminate life guard services at 1 of the park’s 3 guarded beaches,” “Close the visitor center for the months of November, January & February,” “Turn one of our four campgrounds over to a concession permittee,” and “Close the park every Sunday and Monday.” The Philadelphia office also instructs the superintendents on how they are supposed to explain the parks’ reduced level of service to the media. For example, the memo says that if they need to inform the public on the change in “hours or days of operation for example, that you state what the park’s plans are and not to directly indicate that ‘this is a cut’ in comparison to last year’s operation. If you are personally pressed by the media in an interview, we all agreed to use the terminology of ‘service level adjustment’ due to fiscal constraints as a means of describing what actions we are taking.” [US Park Service, 2/20/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 3/16/2004; Fresno Bee, 3/18/2004; Arizona Daily Star, 3/20/2004; National Geographic, 4/19/2004]

Entity Tags: Randy Jones, Chrysandra Walter, National Park Service (NPS), Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: National Parks, Politicization and deception

The US Court of Appeals rules on a lawsuit brought against the EPA by two environmental groups who argued that a 2002 EPA rule requiring snowmobile manufactures to cut tailpipe emissions by 50 percent by 2012 was too lenient. The snowmobile industry argued that the EPA did not even have the authority to impose pollution limits on new snowmobiles. The court disagrees with the industry’s argument and rules on the side of the environmentalists. The three-judge panel questions the logic behind the EPA decision that 30 percent of new snowmobiles should be exempt from clean engine requirements and tells the agency that it needs to provide additional information. The industry claimed that 100 percent compliance would cost the industry too much and force manufacturers to stop making certain models. But the court sees nothing wrong with requiring manufactures to discontinue older models equipped with dirty engines. [Associated Press, 6/1/2004]

Entity Tags: Environmental Protection Agency

Category Tags: National Parks, Snowmobile regulation

President Obama signs legislation expanding and protecting US public parks and wilderness areas from oil and gas development, a dramatic reversal of Bush-era policy. The omnibus Public Land Management Act is described as the largest US conservation measure in 15 years. [CNN, 3/30/2009; Fox Business, 3/30/2009; Agence France-Presse, 3/31/2009]
Over 150 Measures - The bill is composed of over 150 individual measures passed by Congress. Among other initiatives, it creates 10 new National Heritage Areas, designates two million acres of federal lands in nine states as wilderness areas, sets out water conservation measures through the Bureau of Reclamation, alters several national park boundaries, and takes steps to drastically improve the quality of California’s San Joaquin River, potentially restoring salmon to that river and improving the quality of drinking water throughout the Bay Area. Scientist Monty Schmitt says of the San Joaquin reclamation project, “This is taking what many have said is a dead river, and bringing it back to life for over 150 miles.” Because of the bill, Obama says, the Navajo nation—over 80,000 Native Americans living in Arizona and New Mexico—will have “access to clean, running water for the very first time.” The legislation also includes the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, named after the late Hollywood actor who was paralyzed from a riding accident, providing for paralysis research, rehabilitation, and care. Obama says that bill is “specifically aimed at addressing the challenges faced by Americans living with paralysis” and will work to improve their quality of life “no matter what the costs.” [CNN, 3/30/2009; Mercury News (San Jose), 3/30/2009; Agence France-Presse, 3/31/2009]
Bill Passed over Republican Opposition - The bill passed both the House and Senate by wide margins, but some Republicans oppose it, complaining that the bill imposed undue restrictions on oil drilling in rural areas. Some of the bill’s components had been blocked in recent years under the Bush administration. [Mercury News (San Jose), 3/30/2009]

Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Monty Schmitt, Public Land Management Act, US Bureau of Reclamation, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: National Parks, Public land use, Wetlands, Key Events

Uranium mine near the rim of the Grand Canyon.Uranium mine near the rim of the Grand Canyon. [Source: Intercontinental Cry (.com)]The Obama administration bans hard-rock mining on more than a million acres in and around the Grand Canyon, an area rich in high-grade uranium ore reserves. The ban is for 20 years. Environmental groups and some Democratic lawmakers have worked for years to limit mining near the Grand Canyon National Park. Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, says, “When families travel to see the Grand Canyon, they have a right to expect that the only glow they will see will come from the sun setting over the rim of this natural wonder, and not from the radioactive contamination that comes from uranium mining.” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who has twice imposed temporary bans on mining claims, says: “A withdrawal is the right approach for this priceless American landscape. People from all over the country and around the world come to visit the Grand Canyon. Numerous American Indian tribes regard this magnificent icon as a sacred place, and millions of people in the Colorado River Basin depend on the river for drinking water [and] irrigation.” The basin is already considered one of the nation’s most endangered waterways, and mining operations could use vast amounts of the area’s water and taint much more. The ban reverses a Bush administration decision to open the area to new mining claims; environmentalists have long pointed to the damage wrought to the area by uranium, oil, and gas mining under the Bush administration’s policies.
Mining Poses High Risks to Environment, Tourism - One in 12 Americans gets some or all of their water from the Colorado River Basin, including the residents of Phoenix and Los Angeles, and the area generates about $3.5 billion in annual income, largely from tourism. In contrast, the mining ban will mean that 465 prospective jobs will not materialize, and the area will lose some $16.6 million in annual tax revenue from mining. Supporters of the ban say that the jobs that would come from mining in the area would not be worth the risk to the river basin and the canyon, and a mining mishap would be potentially devastating for tourism. Many of the area’s lands are considered sacred by Native American tribes, and the lands support a vast number of wildlife habitats. Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity says that uranium mining in the area would critically despoil the area, ruin millions of Americans’ access to fresh water, and cut, not increase, job revenues. McKinnon says: “The real economic engine in northern Arizona is not uranium mining. It’s tourism. To jeopardize our economic engine with more toxic uranium mining is unacceptable.” In 2008, former Bureau of Land Management Director Jim Baca said flatly: “Without [the Colorado], there is no Western United States. If it becomes unusable, you move the entire Western United States out of any sort of economic position for growth.” [ProPublica, 12/21/2008; Associated Press, 1/9/2012]
Republicans Criticize Ban - Some Congressional Republicans and mining industry groups call the decision indefensible, saying it will cost hundreds of jobs and deprive the nation of a much-needed energy resource. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) calls the ban a “devastating blow to job creation in northern Arizona,” and says the ban was “fueled by an emotional public relations campaign pitting the public’s love for the Grand Canyon against a modern form of low-impact mining that occurs many miles from the canyon walls.” He says that modern mining techniques will not add toxins to water drawn from the river basin. Other Republicans cite a mining industry study that claims even a severe mining accident would increase uranium levels in the Colorado River by an undetectable amount. Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT) says: “It is unconscionable that the administration has yet again caved to political pressure from radical special interest groups rather than standing up for the American people. Banning access to the most uranium-rich land in the United States will be overwhelmingly detrimental to both jobs in Utah and Arizona and our nation’s domestic energy security.” Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) calls the ban part of the Obama administration’s “war on western jobs.” Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), a tea party supporter, says: “This administration has proven incapable of using even the slightest bit of common sense when it comes to lands policy. The American people are desperate for jobs, and our domestic energy industry provides some of the best paying jobs in the western states. However, the president and Interior Secretary Salazar are intent on appeasing their friends in the extreme left wing of the environmentalist movement during an election year by locking up as much land as possible, regardless of the negative effects on our economy. For energy production that has long been safe and responsible, the announcement represents a needless overreaction to a fictitious problem.” [Senator John McCain, 1/9/2012; Senator John McCain, 1/9/2012] In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency noted that mining had contaminated 40 percent of the streams and rivers in the western United States, and mining was considered the single most polluting industry in the nation. [ProPublica, 12/21/2008] Many of the claims now blocked from development belong to foreign interests, including Rosatom, Russia’s state atomic energy corporation, and South Korea’s state-owned utility. [PR Newswire, 6/7/2011]

Entity Tags: Michael Shumway (“Mike”) Lee, Jim Baca, Environmental Protection Agency, Edward Markey, John Barrasso, Ken Salazar, Rosatom, Rob Bishop, Obama administration, Taylor McKinnon, John McCain

Category Tags: National Parks, Public land use, Wildlife protection, Toxic waste, Oil and gas industry, Mining industry, Key Events

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