Quiet, snow-quilted winter landscapes quickly lose some charm when the loud whine of snowmobiles intrudes. That, of course, is the view of those who favor snowshoes or skis - or simply a peaceful experience of nature's beauty.
The snowmobiler may profess no less a love of the woods and spectacular views - just a preference to get there quicker, with less exertion.
In most places where winter sports are popular, these varying points of view coexist. The motorized and unmotorized snow lovers tolerate each other, and in fact may dabble in each other's pastimes.
But the nation's chief keeper of wild places, the Interior Department, is right to judge that the national parks are a special case. For decades, the parks have been open to snowmobiles, despite the noise, disruption of wildlife, and pollution they bring.
Opposition to snowmobile use has grown, however, and Interior last week announced a ban. Particularly vast and remote parks in Alaska are exempted. And Yellowstone and Grand Teton, two parks heavily used by snowmobilers, aren't subject to the ban either, pending their completion of new recreation plans that have been in the works for some time.
The move to cut back on snowmobiles in the parks - following earlier steps against all-terrain vehicles and jet skis - will be loudly challenged. Its basic thrust should prevail, however. There are ample state and national forestlands for such recreation. The national parks should remain places for less intrusive ways of appreciating nature.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society