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Proposed Yellowstone Monitoring Station Under Debate

A climate monitoring station has been proposed for Yellowstone National Park under a National Science Foundation project designed to monitor the impacts of climate change, land-use change, and invasive species on the ecosystem.

The program is intended to establish a series of cutting-edge sensor arrays at dozens of sites across the nation, allowing scientists, researchers, and the public to have unparalleled access to data by posting monitoring results on the Internet to collectively help understand how the ecosystem responds to various types of change and stress. The array would be installed and managed by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), an NSF project.

The official description:

Yellowstone has been identified as a “core” site for the Northern Rockies Domain for installation of monitoring infrastructure for a 30-year period.  Short-term or “relocatable” data gathering sites for the domain have been proposed for Bozeman and the Paradise Valley in Montana.

Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) The National Park Service (NPS) is seeking public input to help prepare an environmental assessment (EA) to analyze impacts associated with the proposed construction of this NEON monitoring station.  The site proposed by NEON is located approximately 9 miles east of Mammoth Hot Springs and 0.3 miles south of Grand Loop Road near the intersection of the entrance of the Blacktail Plateau Drive.  Construction of the monitoring facilities would require installation of electric service, conduits, limited fencing, a small instrument building, and a meteorological platform tower which would extend about 20 feet above nearby trees.  As many as 55 instrumented sampling plots would be established near the site.  Equipment to gather aquatic data would be installed at a smaller site about 2.5 miles west of this core facility.  Some of this infrastructure would likely be visible from a few locations along the Grand Loop Road. These sites, among others that meet the project objectives, will be considered and evaluated during the planning process.

If the online comments are any indication (and they may not be), there is some serious opposition to the proposal, falling along two lines. The first is a knee-jerk reaction against any hint of global warming (there is; the issue is the cause, not the existence), and it’s hard take those reactions seriously. The second is much more principled: that the pristine wilderness of Yellowstone National Park shouldn’t be marred by such a station, which would certainly impact the Yellowstone experience. Although the core of the project is a small building, a monitoring platform would raise above the treeline, and the additional arrays would spread over two miles from the building.

It’s not a done deal: National Park Service officials are seeking public comment before making a final decision on the Yellowstone monitoring station. Additional information and an electronic form to submit comments on the proposal are available on the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website. In addition, Park officials will convene a meeting on December 2 in Bozeman, Mont., to learn more about this proposal. The meeting will be held at the Homewood Suites (1023 Baxter Lane). The open house will begin with a brief presentation at 6:00 p.m. and will conclude by 8:00 p.m.

Comments may be also hand-delivered during normal business hours to the Mailroom in the park’s Administration Building in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming, or mailed to: Compliance Office Attn: NEON Proposed Core Site Project, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY, 82190. Comments will not be accepted by fax, e-mail, or in any other way than those specified above. All comments must be received by midnight MST December 21, 2014.

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