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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Snowmobile settlement gives new life to sleds in Yellowstone
Gazette Wyoming Bureau

Folks who displayed bumper stickers reading "Snowmobilers for Bush" last fall placed their trust in the right hands.

Following weeks of closed-door talks, the Bush administration on Friday signed a settlement agreement with snowmobile manufacturers that could allow snowmobiling to continue in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The agreement left the snowmobile ban in place but calls for a supplemental environmental impact statement that takes into account the benefits of new, "cleaner and quieter" snowmobiles.

The Clinton administration spent nearly three years studying the issue, and both the National Park Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determined that snowmobiles pollute and impair park resources. By law, that finding requires that Yellowstone halt the activity. The administration enacted a phase-out process that would ban snowmobiles entirely by the winter of 2003-2004.

In its environmental review, however, the Clinton administration did not consider prototype technologies that allow for cleaner-burning snowmobiles. To the chagrin of environmentalists who are already critical of the Bush administration's environmental policies, the Interior Department seized on that fact in the settlement announced Friday.

Stephanie Hanna, spokeswoman for the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., said the administration has agreed to consider "new information" during the year and a half before the phase-out goes into effect.

"We could use that time to litigate, or we could open the record, do the supplemental environmental impact statement, look at the data," Hanna said. "There may be a need to modify the rule, or there may not, but at that point we think the decision will be a more informed decision."

She emphasized that the settlement does not mean the agency has decided that cleaner snowmobiles could or should be allowed in Yellowstone.

Under the current schedule, Yellowstone would see a 50 percent reduction in snowmobile use during the winter of 2002-2003 before a complete ban takes place the following year. A mass-transit system using snowcoaches would take their place.

The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, which challenged the snowmobile ban in Wyoming District Court in Cheyenne, praised the settlement. In a prepared release, the manufacturers' group said the analysis of cleaner technologies "will counter inaccuracies and misinformation used to smear snowmobiles in the original" environmental impact statement.

Association officials could not be reached for comment.

Although the organization cites clean technology as the key to maintaining snowmobile use in Yellowstone, the snowmobile makers association has argued against almost any snowmobile pollution standards in its comments to the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency is in the process of developing pollution standards for snowmobiles.

Environmentalists said the Bush administration again had decided in favor of industry and against environmental protections.

"What Yellowstone needs is relief from the damage caused by snowmobiles, not more study," said Jon Catton of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. "That's what the Park Service has said, that's what the EPA has echoed in the strongest terms possible, and it's what tens of thousands of citizens have communicated to the government in a three-year public process that could not have been more thorough."

Environmentalists and Park Service officials have maintained that cleaner, quieter machines cannot address all of the problems caused by snowmobiles.

"It doesn't help wildlife. It doesn't help safety issues. It doesn't help the traffic congestion that has changed the experience of visiting Yellowstone in winter," Catton said.

The ban enjoyed popular support measured in opinion surveys, but was lambasted by government officials in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho as well as by many business operators in gateway communities, who fear an end to snowmobiles would mean an end to winter tourism.

In a prepared statement, Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer called the settlement "a step in the right direction." He said it would be a "major error" to rely entirely on an "untested mass transit system" for all future access.

Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., a leading snowmobile advocate in Congress, said the Clinton administration pushed out the rules in "in the 11th hour without regard to the comments and technical information provided by the cooperating agencies," including surrounding counties and states.

"The public deserves a full and fair evaluation that it was so clearly previously denied," Thomas said in a prepared statement.

According to the settlement, the National Park Service will publish a supplemental environmental impact statement by Jan. 21, 2002, and will propose a new rule by March 15, 2002. The final decision must be released by Nov. 15, 2002.

I agree with theory. But, communism theory!

Discussion Starter · #2 ·
anyone interested in this please see my 'gixxer sled' post please. it is a sled we built purposely for this

You wear your silver chain but the cross won't stop the lies,you believe in nothing
Kenton Thomas,Portal
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