THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION has studied and studied the effects of snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. The studies' conclusions: Despite some improvements in emissions, snowmobiles continue to pollute the park's air and disturb its quiet. The administration's conclusion: Let's continue to allow 720 of them into the park every day.
This week's nonsensical if preliminary decision by the National Park Service comes less than two weeks after it released a battery of damning new studies, leaving one to wonder whether officials bothered reading the reports. The proposal will be put to public comment in March.
Although the temporary rules at Yellowstone have allowed 720 snowmobiles a day for each of the last two seasons, on average only about one-third as many enter the park, probably because of inclement weather. Instead, more visitors opted to tour the park in a snow coach -- a sort of mini-snow bus that has less effect on the park.
This has been an accidental blessing for Yellowstone. One recent study found that fewer snowmobiles had led to a steep reduction in the park's air pollution over the last two years, even as other research showed that the vehicles, contrary to manufacturers' promises, have not gotten any cleaner or quieter over the last five years. Yellowstone's air quality remains out of compliance with Park Service standards. Another study by the Park Service reported in September that snowmobile-dominated noise is audible about two-thirds of the time at the park's favorite tourist spots, including Old Faithful.