NPS study discounts snowmobile maker claims

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Park Service study discounts snowmobile-makers' scientific data .

By CHRISTOPHER THORNE

Associated Press Writer

1/7/02

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A $2.4 million National Park Service study rejects claims that snowmobile makers are manufacturing cleaner machines that won't disturb wildlife or pollute the air.

At issue is whether the Bush administration will uphold, weaken or do away with a Clinton-era ban on snowmobiling in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

In this new study, the Park Service discredited almost all of the data from snowmobile makers, as well as industry-friendly information provided by the states of Wyoming and Montana. That data included detailed letters and reports written by industry engineers.

Peppered throughout its analysis of the data, the Park Service has statements such as: "Information is not new," "Does not add to information that already exists," and "Survey is not credible."

The study is to be released next week. A draft review of the study was obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday. Park Service officials confirmed that the study to be released next week will be little different from the draft.

The study was ordered by the Bush administration on June 29 as part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought by snowmobile makers seeking to roll back the ban on their machines in the two parks and on the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, an 82-mile road linking them.

Ed Klim, president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, said he was stunned by the report's findings, and insisted that the Park Service must not have read the information his trade group provided.

"They aren't considering the new data," he said. "That's all it can mean to me."

Conservation groups, many of which support the ban on snowmobiles, called the report a waste of taxpayer money, because it found what was already known from earlier studies.

"The Park Service study that will be released next week clearly proves that the original decision to phase out snowmobiles was the best one for Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks," said Chris Mehl, a spokesman for The Wilderness Society.

"The snowmobile industry had 15 months to provide new information, but this study shows that all the information was considered in its original study," Mehl said.

In its lawsuit, the manufacturers association argued that a previous Park Service study -- which was the basis for the ban -- relied on old emissions and noise data and failed to consider a new generation of cleaner, quieter machines.

That first Park Service study took more than a decade and included more than 22 public hearings. It concluded that the crowds of snowmobilers who flock to the parks, particularly on weekends and on holidays, were polluting the air and startling bison, elk and other animals.

Following the barrage of criticism that followed the last study, this one was intentionally written in a very neutral tone, said Marsha Karle, a Park Service spokeswoman.

"We try very hard to stay with the facts, and science, and research," Karle said. "We wanted to make sure everyone would be able to draw their own conclusions."

The study lays out four alternatives for reducing the number of snowmobiles in the parks, including one that would require riders to hire guides. Two of the alternatives would eventually eliminate all snowmobiles. The other two would allow some snowmobiles into the park, but with limits and conditions.

The Clinton administration proposal called for phasing out snowmobiles by the winter of 2003-2004.

A final decision on whether to uphold the ban on snowmobile use or change the order is expected in mid-November, Karle said.

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On the Net:

International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association: http://www.snowmobile.org/

Greater Yellowstone Coalition: http://www.greateryellowstone.org/

Yellowstone National Park: http://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm

The Wilderness Society: http://www.tws.org
 

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