National Park Service Bans Snowmobiles at Most Parks

April 27, 2000

Michael Johnsen

Citing that snowmobiles have had "significant adverse environmental effect" on the park system The National Park Service on Thursday issued a broad ban on recreational use of the offroad vehicles at nearly all of the national parks, recreational areas and monuments.

The ban applies to 12 national parks including Acadia (Maine), Sequoia National Park (California), and Kings Canyon (California). Snowmobiling also no longer will be allowed in 15 national seashores, monuments, parkways, historic sites, recreational areas and scenic trails.

There are exceptions to this ban, however. Parks in Alaska and the Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, where Congress specifically allowed use of snowmobiles, are still allowed, as are places where the vehicles are considered necessary for access to adjacent private lands or inholdings, the agency said.

"The time has come for the National Park Service to pull in its welcome mat for recreational snowmobiling," says Donald J. Barry, Assistant Interior Secretary. He calls snowmobiles "noisy, antiquated machines that are no longer welcome in our national parks."

The ban may still widen- decisions concerning Yellowstone National Park in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming were delayed until November because of continuing snowmobile studies at the two parks.

Part of the problem is the popularity of the vehicles, which has signifiactnly increased. More than 180,000 snowmobiles are used during winter months in the national park system and critics have complained that they account for significant air pollution, noise and damage to wildlife and the park environment. Air pollution in some national parks can exceed major urban areas, laregely due to the pollution from snowmobles and other thrill-craft.

"The snowmobile industry has had many years to clean up their act and they haven't," said Barry.

In addition, the Park service has been negligent in monitoring and controlling snowmobile traffic. In fact, this action came as a result of a petition filed more than a year ago by the Blue Water Network and more than 60 other environmental and conservation groups. They claimed the National Park Service has not enforced its own regulations, dating back to the 1970s, that required close monitoring of snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles in parks, and a ban if they were found to harm the environment.

For "years inattention to our own regulatory standards on snowmobiles generated the problem we have before us today," said Denis Galvin, the Park Service's deputy director.

"The Park Service is finally waking up to the lasting harm motorized thrill-craft such as snowmobiles cause to parks," said Sean Smith of the San Francisco-based Bleater Network. He is a former park ranger at Yellowstone.

"Snowmobile use is hurting parks and discouraging visitors. People want to enjoy the parks free from noise and pollution," added Kevin Collins, a spokesman for the National Parks and Conservation Association, a private park advocacy group.

The 27 national park areas where snowmobiles are being banned immediately, according to the National Park Service:

National Parks

Acadia (Maine)

Gunnison National Park (Colorado)

Crater Lake (Oregon)

Mount Rainier (Washington)

North Cascades (Washington)

Olympic (Washington)

Rocky Mountain (Colorado)

Sequoia and Kings Canyon (California)

Theodore Roosevelt (North Dakota)

Zion (Utah)

National Seashores

Pictured Rocks (Michigan)

National Scenic Rivers and Trails

Appalachian National Scenic Trail (multistate)

Saint Croix National Scenic Rivet (Wisconsin)

National Recreation Areas

Bighorn Canyon (Montana and Wyoming)

Curecanti (Colorado)

Delaware Water Gap (New Jersey and Pennsylvania)

Lake Chelan (Washington)

Ross Lake (Washington)

National Historic Sites

Herbert Hoover (Iowa)

Perry's Victory (Michigan)

National Parkways

Blue Ridge (North Carolina and Virginia)

John D. Rockefeller Jr. (Wyoming)

National Monuments

Cedar Breaks (Utah)

Dinosaur (Colorado and Utah)