White House reverses experts on Yellowstone policy
By JIM DRINKARD, Associated Press Writer Thu Jul 24, 3:11 PM ET
WASHINGTON - The National Park Service wanted to close a section of Yellowstone Park in the wintertime because of the risk of avalanche. No way, protested businesses in Cody, Wyo., that wanted to promote more tourism.
The spat did not stay local for long. It ended up in Washington, where the Bush White House intervened late last year and sided with the businesses, according to officials familiar with the fight.
A final decision, announced Monday by Park Service regional director Mike Snyder, will keep the park's eastern entrance open to snow-going vehicles throughout the winter. The cost to taxpayers could run into the millions of dollars for a decision to accommodate a small number of tourists.
"This clearly falls into the basket of politics and the administration trumping science and what's best for the national park system," says Tim Stevens, who manages Yellowstone issues for the National Parks Conservation Association, a private watchdog group. "It clearly shows political manipulation.". . .
in November, just as a crucial ruling was to come out, an official in the Park Service's Washington headquarters called Yellowstone and asked that key sections of the document be faxed for review by nine White House officials, including policy advisers to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, said two officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals. Cheney is a former Wyoming congressman.
The episode fits a pattern of complaints by government scientists and experts who contend the administration frequently has overruled their work and imposed politically driven policies that benefit powerful economic interests, on issues from global warming to endangered species. For example, the administration rejected scientific advice in loosening air quality standards for ground-level ozone and soot, and ignored advice to control greenhouse gas emissions.
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