Thursday, the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee passed the Yellowstone and Grand Teton Paddling Act, which opens up more than 400 miles of streams and rivers to “hand propelled water crafts,” like rafts and kayaks.
While the waterways are one step closer to opening, the bill still needs approval from the entire House of Representatives.
“If passed, the end result will align Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park with other national parks across the country that offer this low-impact way for the public, and especially America's youth, to have truly unforgettable experiences,” said Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., who introduced the bill, in a recent press release.
Lummis tried to pass a similar bill last year. It was approved in the House and failed in the Senate.
If passed, the National Parks Service would have three years to study and analyze the rivers and streams before allowing paddlers.
"I took great care to ensure the Park Service has the time, resources and public input necessary to write a responsible management plan,” Lummis continued in the release.
However, not everyone believes opening the waterways to hand propelled water crafts is a good idea. The waterways were closed to paddlers in the ’50s to protect from overfishing.
“We feel this bill is bad for Yellowstone and bad for the Grand Teton National Park,” Yellowstone Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association Stephanie Adams told GrindTV.
She believes the bill takes a “user-first” approach and doesn’t adequately protect the waterways.
“This proposal really requires the [National Park Service] to open up certain rivers and streams regardless of the impacts that that could have to wildlife, other visitors and park resources,” Adams said.
She also said she’s worried about the cost the bill will have on the National Parks Service, which will be required to pay for the studies and assessments of the waterways.
“The parks service is already strapped for funding and it really can’t afford to divert funds from current programs to support this new cost,” Adams said.
As a response to these concerns, Lummis included an amendment to limit the amount of streams and rivers that require a study.
“I took great care to ensure the Park Service has the time, resources and public input necessary to write a responsible management plan. My amendment also alleviates the burden on the Park Service by reducing the required scope of the rule-making to 10 percent of the total river miles in the parks,” she said in the release.
Another concern of conservationists is that opening the waterways to paddlers could pave the way for other uses.
“We really feel that this is a bad precedent for protecting our resources in the national parks,” Adams said. “It raises concerns as to what use will be next.”
If the bill passes in the House, it would still require approval from the Senate.
The bill does not allow the use of inflatable inner tubes.
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