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Snowmobilers and Manufacturers Sue National Park Service

5 August 2000

ASSA and ISMA Challenge Denali Closure

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The Alaska State Snowmobile Association (ASSA), the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) and three individuals today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Alaska challenging the National Park Service's latest snowmobile closure of the 2 million-plus acre portion of Denali National Park and Preserve commonly called "the Old Park." This action follows the snowmobilers' successful lawsuit last year in which Federal Judge John Sedwick invalidated the Park Service's previous attempt to ban snowmobiles in the Old Park.

    The latest snowmobile closure, which was effective July 19, 2000, is permanent. "This closure reflects the Clinton Administration's political view that regardless of the law the Old Park should be closed to all snowmachine access," said Ed Klim, President of ISMA. Special Federal law for Alaska guarantees that snowmobiles can be used in parks there to engage in "traditional activities." The closure is part of a ban on snowmobile use in units of the National Park System announced by Administration political appointees.

    The lawsuit explains that the Administration and the Park Service acted arbitrarily in banning snowmachines from the Old Park. First, the Park Service has twisted the law and ruled that "traditional activities" do not include sightseeing, photography, camping or picnicking, even though these activities have occurred in the Old Park (and other parks) for decades. This ludicrous definition is a bald effort to wipe out statutorily assured snowmobile access.

    Second, the Park Service concluded that any snowmobile use of the Old Park (e.g., a single rider) damages the environment sufficiently to justify closure of the entire 2 million acres. "At the same time it decided one snowmobile rider is too many, the Park Service ruled that more than 10,000 buses, trucks, and autos could use the 92-mile Park road in the summer," said Kevin Hite, President of ASSA. The 92-mile road bisects the Old Park.

    It defies all facts and logic that one snowmobile rider in a 2 million acres area could impact the environment more than 10,000 motor vehicles. "This absurd conclusion demonstrates that this action is driven by politics, not on-the-ground facts. It also ignores the real strides the snowmobile manufacturers have made in recent years to create cleaner and quieter machines," said Ed Klim.

    Third, the Park Service again failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. The agency refused to look at the potential impacts of its decision to close the Old Park and ignored the impacts of its traditional activities definition (e.g., no sightseeing) on other parks in Alaska.

    As with last year's lawsuit, the ASSA, ISMA and individual plaintiffs hope and expect that the Court can render a decision before the snowmobiling season begins next winter.

    ASSA is an organization of snowmobile groups and individual users in Alaska dedicated to promoting safe and responsible snowmobile use through Alaska. ASSA members value the natural resources of Alaska and promote the protection of the environment from irreparable harm.

    ISMA is an organization representing the four snowmobile manufacturers. ISMA maintains strong partnerships with the American Council for Snowmobile Associations and the Canadian Council of Snowmobile Associations, representing four million snowmobilers, including many in Alaska. ISMA coordinates committees within the industry to handle concerns such as snowmobile safety and the positive economic impact the sport has throughout the world.