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Public Comment Sought on National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) Sites in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park is seeking public comment on building two proposed National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) sites in the park.

According to a Yellowstone press release, NEON, funded by the National Science Foundation, is a cross-continental program that records and synthesizes data “needed to study the impacts of climate change, land use change, and invasive species on natural resources and biodiversity.” NEON has asked the National Park Service whether it can establish stations within the park.

In response, the NPS has written and released an environmental assessment (EA) on the NEON proposal, as mandated under the National Environmental Policy Act. The NPS EA also addresses Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and impacts to species protected by the Endangered Species Act. The EA includes two “Action” courses and one “No Action” course.

NEON previously asked the NPS to allow construction of a climate monitoring site in Yellowstone National Park back in 2014. Public comment was sought on that proposal as well. As of writing, it is still listed as “pending” on the NEON website. From the press release:

If approved for installation by the NPS, two sites would have equipment funded by NEON and installed by its contractors. The first would be south of Grand Loop Road near the intersection with Blacktail Plateau Drive. The second would be at Blacktail Deer Creek. Key infrastructure would include a tower with sensors, a precipitation collection system with fencing, five soil sampling arrays, an instrument hut, aquatic instrumentation (in-stream sensors, a meteorological station, and a groundwater observation well network), and an auxiliary portal and electrical service.

In addition to the data gathered via instrumentation, contracted personnel would conduct field observations in order to characterize organisms and soil to investigate biogeochemical cycles, infectious diseases, and characterize local patterns, dynamics, and linkages in terrestrial ecosystems. An annual flyover with small aircraft would collect airborne observations. Plot markers, tree tags, and equipment to monitor insects and plants would also be deployed within the NEON study area. Equipment at the sites would collect data for 30 years. NEON data is available to researchers and the public.

The EA may be viewed and written comments submitted using the Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) system, hand-delivered, or mailed to the address below. Comments will not be accepted by fax, e-mail, or in any other way than those specified above. Comments must be received by midnight MDT, July 18, 2017.

Comments may also be hand-delivered to the Albright Visitor Center in Mammoth Hot Springs; be sure and include “Attention: NEON Proposed Core Site Project” on your envelope. Otherwise, you may mail comments to the following address:

Yellowstone National Park, Compliance Office
Attention: NEON Proposed Core Site Project
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190

As always, bulk comments (hard copy or electronic) are prohibited. Since comments may be made public at any time, be aware of putting personally identifiable information in your comment. Finally, as mentioned, comments on historic properties and cultural resources are welcome, since this public comment period falls under the NHPA.

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

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