WASHINGTON (AP) – The National Park Service released a controversial study of snowmobile use in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks on Tuesday, rebutting arguments by snowmobile manufacturers that they are producing cleaner, greener machines.
Concerns over noise and air pollution from snowmobilers that tour the parks, as well as the 82-mile John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway that connects them, prompted the Park Service in November 2000 to announce unrestricted access by the machines would be ended.
that decision was put aside on June 29, 2001, in the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the state of Wyoming and snowmobile manufacturers. That lawsuit argued that the Park Service had used incorrect emissions data in figuring whether snowmobiles contribute to poor air quality.
As part of the settlement, the Park Service agreed to conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement and include new data that the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association had argued was left out of the original study.
The new study rebuts the manufacturers argument, however, finding that most of the data submitted by the manufacturers either had already been considered or consisted of promotional material, such as glossy sales brochures, that failed to consider what was coming out of the tailpipes.
Randy Roberson, owner of the third largest snowmobile operation in West Yellowstone – YellowstoneVacations.com – said the Park Service had not looked at the economic impact of its proposals.
If 500 snowmobiles is the most we can have, that is going to kill us, he said. Thats not enough pie to feed all of us.
Ed Klim, president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, could not be reached by telephone on Tuesday. He has dismissed preliminary summaries of the report, saying they failed to incorporate the material he had offered.
Telephone messages left with spokesmen at Arctic Cat Inc. and Polaris Industries Inc., the two major manufacturers of snowmobiles, were not returned.
Environmentalists who advocate banning snowmobiles entirely were critical of the options that would keep the parks open to the machines, even at lower numbers, and said the second study amounted to a $2.4 million waste of taxpayer money.
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The information in this study provided by the snowmobile industry is not new and does not change the Park Services fundamental conclusion that snowmobile use damages these two magnificent national parks, said Alix Rauschman, a spokesman for the Natural Trails and Waters Coalition.
Most of the snowmobilers enter Yellowstone from West Yellowstone, Mont. From there, a favorite route of snowmobilers is the 32-mile road to Old Faithful and back. On still, windless days, park employees report a blue haze covers the park entrance and the route, and workers complain of sore throats, burning eyes and lethargy.
Last weekend, workers wore Park Service-issued respirators at the west entrance.
The new study, posted on the agencys Internet site, essentially re-examines whether the Park Service should uphold its decision to eliminate all recreational snowmobiling in the parks by the winter of 2003-2004.
It lays out four alternatives for the future of snowmobiling in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, but fails to identify one of them as the preferred option. The four are:
Phase out snowmobiles beginning in December with full ban effective in the winter of 2003-2004.
Delay the ban, starting to phase snowmobiles out in 2003-2004, with full ban in 2004-2005.
Cap the number of snowmobiles, and all machines must meet stricter emission standards by 2005..
Cap the number of snowmobiles, all machines must meet stricter emission standards, and snowmobilers must travel with a Park Service guide.
A final decision is expected in mid-November, just before the start of the traditional snowmobile season.
This supplemental study is only available on the Internet. The Park Service wont have paper copies until March 29, when a 60-day comment period officially begins.
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