NEWS For Immediate Release: February 16, 2001
Contact:     Jon Catton, Greater Yellowstone Coalition (406) 586-1593
      


Yellowstone Records Reveal
Snowmobile Havoc

Sleds Caught Breaking 85 M.P.H. Inside National Park

Park Employees Suffering Symptoms of
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


Bozeman, MT. A request for Park Service documents has revealed that serious safety, health, and resource protection issues arose in Yellowstone National Park during a busy holiday period earlier this year.

The insights into park problems gleaned from law enforcement citations and medical statements filed by Park Service employees is timely as Yellowstone braces for Presidents¹ Day weekend, when upwards of 3,000 snowmobiles are expected to flood through the park¹s west entrance during the three-day period.

Citations issued by Yellowstone¹s rangers demonstrate that scores of snowmobiles, instead of merely transporting visitors to natural wonders such as Old Faithful geyser, have been racing at high speeds through river valleys occupied by wildlife. Others have violated national park regulations by leaving roads and traveling across meadows and hills that are off limits to snowmobiles.

A review of the citations conducted by the Greater Yellowstone Coalition shows:

Snowmobilers ticketed for traveling 85 and 88 miles an hour inside the park, nearly twice Yellowstone¹s legal speed limit; and

Over 176 violations since December 18, nearly half for speeding. Driving off-road and driving without a license (primarily under-age drivers) have been the second and third most common infractions.

"These violations show a profound lack of respect for the regulations that protect Yellowstone National Park, its wildlife, and the experience that many visitors are seeking but not finding because of snowmobile havoc," said Michael Scott of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

Scott said that visitor safety, wildlife harassment, and the traffic created by individual machines which enter the park in droves, are all issues that the snowmobile industry and its political allies have ignored as they try to shift focus to new models of snowmobiles.

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition also reviewed medical statements filed by employees in Yellowstone. These documents show that on busy days, employees working in the midst of snowmobile exhaust have experienced nausea, sore throats, headaches, watering eyes and lethargy‹symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

"When the caretakers of America¹s first national park are treated like canaries in a coal mine, something is terribly wrong," said Scott. "It¹s an injustice to the employees and it¹s an unmistakable sign that the Park Service was wise in its decision to phase out snowmobile use and emphasize a healthier, safer and more appropriate form of access to the national park."

Scott pointed out that the recent medical statements have put a human face on what air quality experts have been warning for years. A compilation of air quality studies conducted in Yellowstone over a period of several years (available on the web at: NPS ARD Snowmobile Report

"These monitoring results indicate high levels of individual pollutants, including carcinogens such as benzene, that result from snowmobile exhaust can be high enough to be a threat to human health."

Though outnumbered by automobiles 16-to-1 during the course of a year in Yellowstone, snowmobiles emit up to 68 percent of the park¹s annual carbon monoxide emissions and up to 90 percent of Yellowstone¹s annual hydrocarbon pollution.

Scott expressed hope that the snowmobile industry and its handful of vocal allies in Congress would be asked to respond, categorically, to these facts coming out of America¹s premier national park.