Former Park Service Directors: Scrap Snowmobile Plan

Former Park Service Directors: Scrap Snowmobile Plan

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YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) -- Four former National Park Service directors urged the Bush administration Wednesday to scrap its plan for allowing some snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park.

In a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, the former officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations said new snowmobiles pollute more than those produced two years ago.

Some of the new models were recently certified for use in the park.

Production of "cleaner and quieter" machines was a key concept behind the Bush administration's push to overturn a ban on snowmobiles in favor of allowing a limited number of new machines that meet certain standards.

"Your stated intention to allow continued snowmobile use in Yellowstone assumed that the industry would take seriously the well-documented dangers of polluting machines to park personnel, the public and the ecosystem," the letter to Norton states.

"Now the industry has betrayed that hope, shrugging off its pledges of good faith toward Yellowstone."

The letter is signed by George B. Hartzog Jr., Park Service director from 1964-1973, Gary Everhardt (1975-1977), Russell Dickenson (1980-1985) and Roger G. Kennedy (1993-1997). The directors served during the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Clinton administrations.

The letter cites data certified by the Environmental Protection Agency that certain 2004 model year four-stroke models pollute more than four-stroke machines made in 2002.

Industry officials have countered that some of the new machines were not intended for use in Yellowstone. They say they will be making machines that qualify under the stricter standards.

But the former directors point to the testing data, as well as recent Environmental Protection Agency concerns that the plan might have do more harm than previously thought, in arguing for the department to rethink its decision to overturn a snowmobile ban.

"The men and women who work in Yellowstone and all Americans who visit the park have a right to expect the cleanest and healthiest air possible," the letter states.

Limited access to snowmobiles is scheduled to begin this winter season, which begins Dec. 17.

For the new plan, the Park Service set limits on the amount of noise and pollution snowmobiles can emit and still be allowed into the parks. The agency is reviewing testing data from snowmobile manufacturers before drawing up a list of which machines will be certified.

Interior Department spokesman John Wright said the former directors may be jumping the gun in saying the industry has fallen short of earlier expectations, especially since the agency is still examining testing data.

He said the Interior Department will stand by the noise and pollution limits set for Yellowstone.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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