The GOP is passing a bill to end paddle-boat restrictions in Yellowstone park. Don't laugh.

My split-second reaction to this headline: What in the world is Congress doing trying to legislate boat access in Yellowstone National Park?

My reaction to this headline after three seconds of reflection: What in the world is the federal government even doing trying to micromanage Yellowstone National Park, at all?


Because apparently, if Congress doesn’t make a decision on Yellowstone boat access, then nobody else will. Nobody else can. Via The Hill:

The Obama administration said Wednesday that it opposes a Republican bill allowing kayaks and other paddle boats into forbidden areas of the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

The Public Access and Lands Improvement Act, H.R. 2954, eliminates two federal regulations to give paddle boats this expanded access to the two Wyoming parks. House Republicans will call up that bill today and pass it.

In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House said the bill’s provisions on paddle boats “set a troubling precedent for the management of the use of hand-propelled vessels in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks.”

The SAP did not elaborate, but the White House is likely bothered by the idea of Congress using legislation to strike down two federal regulations.

H.R. 2954 is an omnibus bill that combines Lummis’s proposal and nine other land use bills. Among other things, it would prevents the Bureau of Land Management from expanding its inventory of land holdings, and allows for the conveyance of land in a few states. The White House said it opposes most of the proposals in the bill.

Yes, I’m sure the Obama administration and their eco-radical influencers aren’t at all keen on scrapping a federal regulation that helps to systematically shut off treasured areas from human access and recreation. For a little more background on what’s really going on here, The Hill points to this story from the Jackson Hole News & Guide from last November, when the legislation was first introduced to combat a lingering restriction from an antiquated rule dating back more than fifty years:


The regulations were written to prevent overfishing, said U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R–Utah, the bill’s co-sponsor and chairman of the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. That law is no longer a viable excuse and now serves only to exclude the public from enjoying an important national resource, he said.

“Once again, the Department of the Interior is prohibiting a good access for outdoor recreation for people, and it’s needless,” he said. “What we’re trying to tell them is to base their management plan on contemporary science and not regulations from the 1950s.”

Kevin Colburn, national stewardship director for the American Whitewater Association, agrees. Of all the national parks in the U.S., a similar ban applies to only Yosemite, he said.

“We think those old regulations don’t make sense anymore,” Colburn said. “There are plenty of ways to prevent overfishing without prohibiting boating.” …

Even without the ban, park leaders could still manage boating through permits and other practices, he said, just as they manage other uses. In fact, his organization would support such limitations, he said. …

The approach for boats he advocates “must put natural resources first and be sustainably managed, and I think boating can be sustainably managed,” he said.

Among progressive environmentalist zealots, there never seems to be any shortage of the fatal conceit that big government and big government alone is somehow the only effective arbiter of responsible environmental stewardship. In fact, however, the federal government is rarely if ever an efficient, energetic, creative, agile, or cost-effective problem solver capable of making decisions that are divorced from a specific political agenda. When it comes to its micromanagement of the American landscape, big government’s all too familiar flaws manifest themselves as environmental degradation and poor long-term policy choices.


Just look at what I highlighted from the above article: There are probably plenty of ways to prevent overfishing, without just outright banning boating. Why the employees and enthusiasts on the ground in Yellowstone are subjected to top-down decisions from politicians in DC is beyond me, but if the federal government were really interested in top-rate conservation, they should consider that there is probably nobody on earth more interested and involved in the conservation of prime whitewater areas and the surrounding wilderness than the people who are gung-ho about whitewater rafting.

The federal government already has a deferred maintenance backlog ranging in the tens of billions of dollars, but instead of taking better care of the one-third of the surface area the United States already owns, President Obama keeps funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund whose main purpose is to just keep right on buying and adding land to the federal estate (his 2014 budget asked for $900 million at the LWCF’s disposal, yeesh). The federal government does not need to be so heavily involved in the day-to-day management of all of our national parks, and the government shutdown last autumn aptly demonstrated why it’s a good idea to consider the option of leasing some of our parks to private companies that can more effectively steward them and actually generate revenue at the same time.


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