Park Service Bans Snowmobiles
By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer
Thu 10:35 am EST
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The National Park Service today issued a broad ban
on recreational use of snowmobiles at nearly all of the national
parks, recreational areas and monuments. The off-road vehicles have
had ''significant adverse environmental effect'' on the park system,
the agency said.
The only exceptions to the ban were parks in Alaska and the Voyageurs
National Park in Minnesota, where Congress specifically allowed use of
snowmobiles, and in cases where the vehicles are considered necessary
for access to adjacent private lands or inholdings, the agency said.
The ban applies to 12 national parks from Acadia in Maine to Sequoia
and Kings Canyon in California, including Yellowstone in Wyoming,
where snowmobiling has been the focus of intense controversy.
Snowmobiling also no longer will be allowed in 17 national seashores,
monuments, parkways, historic sites, recreational areas and scenic
''The time has come for the National Park Service to pull in its
welcome mat for recreational snowmobiling,'' Assistant Interior
Secretary Donald J. Barry said. He called snowmobiles ''noisy,
antiquated machines that are no longer welcome in our national
''The snowmobile industry has had many years to clean up their act and
they haven't,'' said Barry.
More than 180,000 snowmobiles are used during winter months in the
national park system and critics have complained that they account for
significant air pollution, noise and damage to wildlife and the park
The action came in response to a petition filed more than a year ago
by the Blue Water Network and more than 60 other environmental and
conservation groups. They claimed the National Park Service has not
enforced its own regulations, dating back to the 1970s, that required
close monitoring of snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles in parks,
and a ban if they were found to harm the environment.
''The Park Service is finally waking up to the lasting harm motorized
thrill-craft such as snowmobiles cause to parks,'' said Sean Smith of
the San Francisco-based Bleater Network. He is a former park ranger at
The Park Service acknowledged that for years it has failed to monitor
snowmobile use and, in violation of its own regulations, failed to
adequately monitor the impact of the popular recreational vehicles on
the park environment.
For ''years inattention to our own regulatory standards on snowmobiles
generated the problem we have before us today,'' said Denis Galvin,
the Park Service's deputy director.
Although word that the Park Service was planning to ban snowmobile use
had surfaced earlier in the week, the agency provided details of the
action in an announcement today.