Concerns about pollution and noise from snowmobiles has Yellowstone National Park officials leaning towards a ban on the vehicles within two years. A spokeswoman for the nation's oldest park says it may shift winter traffic to snow coaches instead.
The announcement was made this week at a meeting between the Park Service and state and local agencies working on a winter-use plan for Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. "This is not a final decision," spokeswoman Marsha Karle told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
The impact of snowmobiles on Yellowstone has been debated for years. Environmentalists believe the 75,000 people who visit the park each year on the machines are producing irreparable damage.
Last year, researchers from the National Park Service issued a report that said snowmobiles produce nearly all the air pollution in Yellowstone. The machines emit 100 times as much carbon monoxide and 300 times as much hydrocarbons as do automobiles, the report said.
But towns in the area want to see snowmobiling continued because of the winter revenues. A recent environmental study estimated that banning snowmobiles will cost the 17-county region $16.5 million and about 400 jobs. The locals have plenty of allies.
Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer (R) says the latest park plan is flawed. "Given the rising popularity of snowmobiles, instead of banning them, we ought to concentrate our efforts on making them cleaner," he says. Sen. Mike Enzi (R) of
Wyoming accuses the National Park Service of never seriously considering alternatives.
A final decision on winter use is expected by Nov. 1. Park officials say they began to favor the snow-coach plan after reviewing thousands of public comments.
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