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Park Service Backs Off Snowmobile Ban

27 July 2000

Interior Secretary Supports Full Rulemaking; Bipartisan Congressional Opposition Grows

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Mounting public opposition, an outcry from small business owners and growing pressure from congressional Democrats has forced the National Park Service to re-think the announced ban on snowmobiles from most national parks. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Sen. Baucus (D-MT) recently declared their opposition to an outright ban on snowmobiles, forcing Secretary of the Interior to commit to a full rulemaking process before any action is taken.

    "By carefully managing the parks, I believe that we can provide this access (to snowmobiles) in a manner that is sensitive to the needs of the environment and to those who go to public lands in search of solitude and quiet," Daschle said in addressing the issue on the Senate floor. "I believe that it is critical for the agency to review a variety of options for managing snowmobiles and to ensure a full opportunity for public comment."

    "I don't think we need an outright ban, " said Sen. Baucus, "I believe we can protect the park and its wildlife in other ways."

    The National Parks Service, seeing support for its unilateral, outright ban evaporate, has backed off its original position. In a letter to Senator Daschle, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit said, "the National Park Service has not made any final decisions on what changes to make in the snowmobile use that is allowed in national parks, and any decisions we make will be made following public comment and compliance with other requirements for agency rulemaking...Until a new rulemaking is completed, the existing rule on snowmobile use in the national parks remains in effect."

    "It's encouraging to see that the Parks Service is now willing to hear public comments and follow rulemaking procedures instead of arbitrarily banning all snowmobiles from the parks," said Ed Klim, president of International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association. "Snowmobilers want to work with Congress to develop a reasonable public access policy so that everyone can respectfully enjoy our beautiful national parks, especially in wintertime," Klim added.

    On April 27, the National Parks Service and outgoing Assistant Secretary of the Interior Donald Barry announced their intention to ban the use of snowmobiles in 27 national parks. The NPS took this extreme action despite recent scientific evidence that shows new snowmobiles have significantly reduced sound and emissions.

    Other Democratic Members of Congress opposing the Park Service proposal include Representatives Colin Peterson (D-MN), James Oberstar (D-MN) and Bart Stupak (D-MI). Copies of their full statements are available upon request.

    The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) is an organization representing the four snowmobile manufacturers. ISMA maintains strong partnerships with the American Council of Snowmobile Associations and the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Associations, representing four million snowmobilers. ISMA coordinates committees within the industry to handle concerns such as snowmobile safety and the positive economic impact the sport has throughout the world.