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Know the West

Republicans rebuff snowmobile plan



Just days after a Dec. 12 U.S. Supreme Court ruling handed the presidency to George W. Bush, Republicans were trying to undo a piece of President Clinton's land protection legacy.

Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., attached a last-minute rider to an omnibus appropriations bill prohibiting the National Park Service from spending any money to enforce snowmobile bans in national parks. Thomas said the rider will give the Bush administration a chance to reverse the phase-out of snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton (HCN, 3/27/00).

But Yellowstone spokeswoman Cheryl Matthews says the rider will have no effect on the parks. It will only delay the snowmobile ban until the end of July 2001, she says. The Park Service plan won't kick in until the winter of 2002-2003, when snowmobile use will be cut by about 50 percent. Snowmobiles will be banned in the winter of 2003-2004. "This winter, of course, we have said all along that there won't be any changes," says Matthews.

Sen. Thomas, however, asserts that the rider "gives the new administration a window of opportunity to study the issue."

Mike Clark, executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, doubts Bush would reverse such a high-profile Park Service rule to appease a handful of snowmobile outfitters. "I'd be surprised if the Bush administration finds this important enough to burn some chips," he says.