Dirty air in the deep of winter

  • CAUSING A STINK: Snowmobiles in Yellowstone

    National Park Service photo
  Snowmobiles produce nearly all the air pollution in Yellowstone National Park, even though other vehicles outnumber them 16 to 1, says a new report by the National Park Service's Air Resources Division. Air Quality Concerns Related to Snowmobile Usage found that one winter's worth of emissions by snowmobiles amounts to 78 percent of all carbon monoxide and 94 percent of all hydrocarbons released during an entire year in the park. Snowmobile groups did not dispute those figures. But they accused the agency of trying to "fan the flames of controversy and inject emotion where none is called for." One Teton County, Wyo., commissioner demanded the resignation of park officials who released the report. Critics pounced on a comparison between Yellowstone's particulate concentrations and those of a Los Angeles suburb: The Yellowstone study used a four-hour measurement while the Los Angeles concentration was measured over 24 hours. A soon-to-be-released revised report will use a different particulates yardstick: Over a two-hour period at the park's west gate, many park employees were found to be exposed to more fine-particulate matter than a Los Angeles or Sacramento commuter. The west gate is where snowmobilers congregate and idle their engines. If anything, counters a coalition of more than 60 organizations working to ban snowmobiles from the national parks, the report underestimates park pollution. The coalition, Bluewater Network, says EPA data show that snowmobiles emit 3,000 times more hydrocarbons and nearly 600 times more carbon monoxide than modern cars. Despite the controversy, Yellowstone planner John Sacklin says the report confirms the park's concerns about the health effects of snowmobile emissions on park visitors and employees, as well as the Yellowstone ecosystem. Sacklin says the Park Service will issue a revised report soon.

To obtain a free copy of the 16-page report, contact Yellowstone National Park at P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone Park, WY 82190, or call 307/344-2013.

- Karen Mockler
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