Snowmobile ban stalled

  • EXHAUSTING SPORT: In a cloud of fumes, snowmobilers warm up their machines in West Yellowstone

    Karen Nichols


A Clinton administration ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks that would start in the winter of 2002 has been stalled, maybe permanently (HCN, 3/27/00: Parks rev up to ban snowmobiles).

At the end of June, the Bush administration announced that it wants to re-evaluate the rule because local communities and business owners say their voices weren't heard sufficiently during what the Interior Department calls "a rushed rule-making process" (HCN, 3/12/01: Yellowstone's last stampede). The decision settles a lawsuit filed by the state of Wyoming and the snowmobile industry against the department. Now, the National Park Service is conducting a supplemental environmental impact statement based on comments by the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and the affected counties. The agency plans to have a final decision by the fall of 2002.

Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer and the state's all-Republican congressional delegation hailed the partial settlement, saying it would protect park-area businesses.

"This gives us an opportunity to include issues left out of the previous study, specifically considering the benefits of new, clean (snowmobile) technology, and increased management of snow machines in the park," says Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo.

But national conservation groups blast what they call a political move.

"This is a sad day for Yellowstone," says Jon Catton of the nonprofit Greater Yellowstone Coalition. "This fits a pattern of (Bush) consistently putting industry before people," he adds, referring to the "tens of thousands of people" who told park planners they favored a snowmobile ban.


Copyright © 2001 HCN and Jason Marsden

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