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Snowmobile Ban Could Be Lifted

Updated: Mon, May 21 6:50 PM EDT
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration is weighing a proposal from
snowmobile manufacturers that could eventually result in lifting the ban on
snowmobiling at several Western national parks.

"Ultimately, the recreational use of snowmobiles in our national parks will
only be permitted if the environment and the values of our parks are
protected," said Mark Pfeifle, a spokesman for Interior Secretary Gale
Norton. "It's too soon, but we're moving along that path."

The National Park Service received the proposal Monday as part of settlement
talks with the International Snowmobile Manufacturers' Association, which
filed a lawsuit in December seeking to overturn the Clinton administration's
ban on recreational snowmobiling to reduce pollution and noise.

The proposal being studied by attorneys for the Interior and Justice
departments calls for the Park Service to do another environmental impact
statement by the end of 2002. Any settlement agreement would have to be
approved by U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer in Cheyenne, Wyo.

The Park Service cited harmful environmental effects a year ago, when it
banned snowmobiles in most national parks. A federal study found that
banning them at the end of 2002 year could cost businesses in the region
$16.5 million annually and about 400 jobs.

The snowmobile ban, approved in January on the day former President Clinton
left office, affects Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and the John
D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, an 82-mile corridor linking the two

Each winter, about 62,000 snowmobilers visit Yellowstone, which is comprised
of 2.2 million acres in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

The ban won the backing of the Bush White House in April, although the
administration said at the time it still hoped an agreement could be reached
to allow "limited recreational use" of snowmobiles in the parks.

Under the ban, the approximately 1,000 snowmobiles a day allowed in the
parks would be cut to half that by the December-to-March snowmobiling season
starting at the end of 2002. All snowmobiles would be banned by the winter
of 2003-2004.

"All we've ever wanted is an honest (environmental impact study)," said Ed
Klim, president of the Lansing, Mich.-based International Snowmobile
Manufacturers Association. "We've always been hopeful that an honest (study)
would allow reasonable and regulated snowmobiling to occur."

Klim said his group hopes to come up with an alternative that might limit
the number of snowmobiles allowed annually in the three parks to roughly 800
or 900 daily, about the average number that have visited the past five

He also seeks advance ticket sales to snowmobilers so they don't get cold
while waiting and their vehicles don't idle as much and pollute the stagnant
air, and he said he wants to encourage use of cleaner ethanol-blended fuels
to reduce snowmobile emissions by 30 percent.

Hope Sieck, a spokeswoman for the Bozeman, Mont.-based Greater Yellowstone
Coalition, an intervener in the lawsuit, said the previous environmental
study was "extremely comprehensive," having taking three years to complete,
with 22 public hearings and 65,000 citizen comments.

"It left no stone unturned," she said. "There's no legitimate legal or
scientific reason to reopen the process."

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