Yellowstone rangers bound and gagged


Dear HCN,

Living in Yellowstone National Park, I wanted to get a first-hand opinion on the snowmobile debate. I'd read reports from the EPA, the snowmobile industry, experts on flora and fauna and everything else, but I hadn't heard the voice that I felt knew the most: the park rangers.

So I asked some park rangers how they felt, and, to my shock, they refused to tell me, because as government employees they're forbidden to publicly express their opinions.

This left me utterly dumbfounded. How can we decide this issue without the input of the park rangers? These are the people who are on the front lines of the snowmobile debate, who put up with the noise, suck in the fumes, and whose eyes tear up from the smog. They're the ones who chase after snowmobilers who speed and go off-trail, and they know first-hand the stresses snowmobiles put on wildlife. Yet they're not allowed to give their opinion.

Is this really considered democracy? I believe that if the snowmobile ban does not pass, it is for one reason: that park rangers have been bound and gagged. It should be an embarrassment to the Park Service, the federal government, and the freedoms we value as Americans that such a policy is upheld.

And perhaps it's not my place, as an employee of a concessionaire and not the Park Service, but I'll say it anyway: Park rangers should speak. If they know in their hearts what is right, they should speak what is in their hearts. As Gandhi said, "When a law fosters untruth, it becomes a duty to disobey it."

The role of park rangers is to be good stewards for the parks; if they are fired for attempting to be good stewards, the Park Service will simply be advertising its hypocrisy.

Ray Sikorski, Mammoth Station,
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

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