Matter of interpretation, and maybe "luck"

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Posted by Ballpark Frank ( on 11:18:21 10/20/18

In Reply to: Thanks posted by Sol


Technically, this restriction applies to anyone not off-trail or off-boardwalk lacking not on official business or possessing a legitimate research permit.

This situation has yet to be tested legally as far as I know. The new regulation is just begging to be tested by a sharp attorney representing someone who obviously was not out looking for a hot-potting or partying opportunity.

In reality, with over 10,000 thermal features within the park boundaries, and the tendency for them to appear and disappear with some regularity, there is no realistic way this ill-fated restriction can be broadly enforced.

Theoretically, the new regulation can be defended as a risk management move, given a few highly publicized deaths and injuries in Yellowstone's thermal areas over the years.

There is an inherent vagueness in the regulation that opens it up to broad legal challenges if law enforcement allows their hand to be forced. Throughout Yellowstone, there are runoff channels that can be construed to be "thermal" in nature, yet are a combination of thermal origin and non-thermal origin waters. One could argue that under this new regulation, fishermen should not be allowed to take one wader-clad step into the Firehole, Gibbon, or Madison Rivers. Whoops, I almost forgot. You can lump the Heart, Lamar, Snake, and Yellowstone Rivers in there. One could argue that Yellowstone Lake would be worthy of restriction. Some of the hottest features in Yellowstone lie beneath the water of Mary Bay.

The very definition of what constitutes a "thermal" or "hydrothermal" area could be questioned, given that recent research reveals literally millions, possibly billions of tiny vents issuing forth gases being breathed off by the subsurface hot spot. One researcher claimed that every day, Yellowstone National Park gives off as much carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide gas as 3 average size commercial coal-fired power plants.

Then there is the problem of select guides, hired by Yellowstone Forever, taking Institute students and wealthy donors out to backcountry thermal areas, theoretically, in violation of this new regulation. It's a rat's nest just waiting to be uncovered.

IMHO, this is just another example of our national parks, wilderness areas, and other special places trying to withstand the onslaught of technological progress that induces new threats to the resource, like drones, GPS technology, Google Earth and Google Maps, kiss and tell books, etc., etc. Meanwhile, new superintendent Dan Sholly is trying to grapple with really serious issues. Maybe the NPS can hire a nouveau Don Knotts, and deputize him as a "Backcountry Thermal Area Enforcement Officer".


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