snowmobiles is the only way to clean up the winter air in
Yellowstone National Park, says the federal Environmental
Protection Agency, at least until the industry comes up with
The Park Service disagrees. Its
preferred alternative in a new winter-use plan would plow the road
between West Yellowstone and Old Faithful, opening it to buses,
shuttle vans and limited numbers of private vehicles (HCN, 9/13/99:
Tempers flare over winter plan). Other roads in the park would
remain open to snowmobiles.
Protection Agency now says that alternative is unacceptable, as are
five of the six other alternatives in a draft version of the plan.
In a letter to the park, EPA staffer Cynthia Cody cited a 1972
executive order signed by former President Richard Nixon, which
allows snowmobiles in national parks only if they "will not
adversely affect natural, aesthetic or scenic values."
Snowmobiles fail that test, Cody
"Analysis ... clearly and convincingly
demonstrates current snowmobile use is adversely affecting the
natural, aesthetic, and scenic values' in the park, she
Park spokeswoman Cheryl Matthews says the
Park Service has a duty to comply with laws and will take the EPA
"No decision has been made,"
she said. "But that EPA letter is part of the process and has to be
considered." Park officials say they will decide on a new winter
plan by Nov. 1.
Cleaner and quieter snowmobiles
already exist. Arctic Cat is testing prototype four-cycle
snowmobiles in the park this winter, and ThreeR Industries, a small
manufacturer in Capac, Mich., has begun building and selling a
small four-cycle sled that meets strict California air-quality
standards. Traveler's Snowmobile Rentals in West Yellowstone has
one of the ThreeR machines; even though the cleaner sleds are less
powerful than their two-cycle counterparts, Travelers' co-owner
Glenn Loomis is ready to buy more.
"If noise and
pollution are what needs fixed, let's fix it," says Loomis. "The
technology is there. We can make it work."