Fund Condemns Snowmobile Litigation Settlement

The Fund for Animals (The Fund) believes the recent

settlement agreement between the Department of the

Interior and the snowmobile industry is intended to

undermine the Clinton Administration decision to eliminate

snowmobiles from Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and John D.

Rockefeller Parks (the parks) in favor of a policy intended to

placate the self-serving and abusive interests of

snowmobilers and snowmobile manufacturers. The Fund and

others sued the National Park Service (NPS) in 1997 to force

the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

which led to the decision to phase-out snowmobiles.

The Clinton Administration policy and rule was intended to

protect wildlife, eliminate excessive snowmobile pollutants,

and reestablish the serenity and sanctity of the park

experience by phasing out snowmobiles. While The Fund

believes the Clinton Administration erred in not terminating

road packing or grooming practices to fully protect park

wildlife, The Fund supports the elimination of snowmobiles as

a first step toward achieving full protection for the parks

and their wildlife.

The terms of the settlement agreement allow this

progressive policy to potentially be replaced by a

pro-snowmobile alternative to the detriment of wildlife, air

and water quality, public safety, and serenity. Despite

President Bush’s claims to protect and preserve our national

parks, this agreement provides additional evidence of

anti-environment and anti-national park policies and

practices of the Bush Administration. Furthermore, this

agreement is contrary to the interests of the majority of

Americans who desire more, not less, protection for

America’s national parks. A recent Zogby poll, for example,

found that 66 percent of 1,003 people supported the NPS

decision to phase out snowmobiles in Yellowstone.

Despite the Bush Administration’s intent in entering into this

settlement agreement, The Fund will use the additional

opportunity for public comment on the Supplemental EIS

(SEIS) to support the elimination of snowmobiles from the

parks, to counter the propaganda from the cooperators and

plaintiffs, and to prove that there is no scientific dispute

regarding the adverse impact of packed or groomed roads on

Yellowstone’s wildlife, particularly its beleaguered bison


In the original EIS, the NPS largely ignored the substantial

evidence, especially data collected by Dr. Mary Meagher,

regarding the serious impact of bison use of packed/groomed

roads on bison population dynamics, movements,

distribution, habitat use patterns, and on grizzly bears and

gray wolves. Bison use of packed roads facilitate their

emigration from the park where they continue to be

harassed and killed pursuant to scientifically fraudulent

policies of the State of Montana. Road packing or grooming

to facilitate snowmobile or snowcoach access causes

adverse impacts to park wildlife which exceed the NPS

impairment standard — an impact that harms the integrity of

park resources or values, including the opportunity that

otherwise would be present for the enjoyment of those

resources or values — and must be prohibited. The Fund will

ensure that the NPS cannot continue to ignore this evidence

or this issue during the SEIS process.

The nefarious nature of the agreement is reflected in the

failure of the Departments of Interior and Justice to consult

with Yellowstone National Park officials as they addressed

the snowmobile litigation. The Fund understands that, had

Yellowstone officials been consulted, they would have

advocated a strong defense of the Clinton Administration’s

decision in order to protect, as required by law, the wildlife,

air quality, and sanctity of America’s oldest and most

famous national park.

The Fund also rejects all claims made by plaintiffs and

plaintiff-intervenors that state and county cooperators in

the EIS process did not have sufficient time to provide

comments to the NPS or that the NPS failed to adequately

consider the proposals and expertise of the cooperating

agencies. Not only did the cooperators have ample

opportunity to participate in the EIS process but they,

through a politically driven decision by a former head of the

Council on Environmental Quality, were allowed to

participate in the original EIS process in violation of federal

law. The Fund and other organizations condemned the

involvement of the cooperators in the original EIS arguing

that none had the requisite expertise to be cooperators as

required by law. The continued involvement of the states

and counties as cooperators demonstrates the bias inherent

in the SEIS process.

The Fund will strenuously oppose any effort by the

snowmobile manufacturers, cooperators, or other

pro-snowmobile organizations to replace the decision to

phase-out snowmobiles with a rule allowing snowmobiles,

including so-called “cleaner and quieter” snowmobiles to

continue to use and abuse the parks. The NPS has already

determined that snowmobiles are inconsistent with the

statutes governing national park management and

considered and rejected alternatives that would have

established committees to evaluate new snowmobile

technologies. Thus, the “new information” used to justify the

SEIS is not new at all, has already been considered and

rejected by the NPS, and should not be subject to

reevaluation. If the cooperators failed to provide evidence

of cleaner and quieter snowmobiles during the original EIS

process, they should not be given a free pass to provide

such evidence now just because a new administration is in

power. The SEIS should not be wasted on reinventing the

wheel, but should be used to address issues, such as road

packing, which were not fully considered in the original EIS.

Furthermore, The Fund is unaware of any publicly available

data which provides valid evidence that new technology has

made snowmobiles substantially less polluting or quieter.

Even if such technology exists, snowmobiles remain a

significant threat to the survival and well-being of park

wildlife and must be eliminated from the parks. Ironically, the

same snowmobile industry that used the new technology

claim in its litigation, has aggressively opposed ongoing

efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt

emission standards for snowmobiles. While The Fund

questions the motives of the Bush Administration in reaching

this settlement, if the Administration complies with the laws

governing the protection of national parks and objectively

evaluates all existing information and new evidence

produced during the SEIS process, it will have to conclude

that snowmobiles have no place in national parks and that

road packing/grooming must be terminated to fully protect

park wildlife as required by law.

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