Washington, DC - A coalition of employee and environmental organizations filed suit today to prevent the Bush Administration from delaying a phase-out of snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) joins the Fund for Animals, the Bluewater Network and others to file the suit in U.S. District Court to block a Bush administration rule, issued November 18, that would prevent changes to snowmobile usage in the Park.
The groups argue that snowmobiles endanger the health of the Yellowstone staff that work at the entrances with huge numbers of entering snowmobiles. For example, through December 27-31 of last year, 4,797 snowmobiles entered the park through the West entrance. The employees inhale gasoline fumes while performing their required duties and Park Rangers have long complained of experiencing nausea, headaches, dizziness, and hearing loss when working near snowmobiles. A study completed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that the workers were subjected to unacceptable levels of snowmobile pollution and noise. Every year, carbon monoxide levels from snowmobile use in Yellowstone have exceeded federal air quality standards.
In addition, the suit argues that snowmobiles have adverse impacts on air and water quality and wildlife in Yellowstone, including endangered and threatened species such as grizzly bears, gray wolves, Canada lynx, and bald eagles. According to Park Service Documents, the 80,000 snowmobiles in Yellowstone each winter produce more total air pollution than the cars and trucks used by the three million other visitors to the park and the roar of snowmobiles can be heard as much as 95 percent of the time in the park's most popular spots.
By moving to keep snowmobiles in Yellowstone, the Bush administration has ignored the overwhelming number of public comments calling on a phase out of snowmobiles from the park. In the last comment period, 80 percent of the 360,000 emails and letters received by the Park Service favored a ban on snowmobiles.
The presence of snowmobiles will further strain the Park's cash-strapped budget by paying for the respirators that protect workers from exhaust, outfitting employees with hearing protection devices, and redesigning entrance stations to pump clean air.
"The Administration is sacrificing the health of the Yellowstone employees to pander to the snowmobile industry," commented Rocky Mountain PEER Director Chandra Rosenthal."PEER believes that the well-being of park employees is essential to the well-being of the park."