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Natural Awakenings

Quiet Wonder: Yellowstone to Banish Snowmobiles

Jan 01, 2009 03:00AM

Yellowstone, the granddaddy of America’s national parks, is cleared to develop a plan to immediately reduce snowmobiling to a level that ensures the protection of clean air, tranquility and wildlife. The goal is to cut snowmobile traffic by half this year and then phase down over the next few years.

The victory came when the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated a Bush Administration decision to authorize nearly 550 snowmobiles per day in this national treasure. The judge respected the findings of four separate National Park Service studies since 1998, all concluding that snowmobile usage significantly increases noise and unhealthy exhaust, disrupts the experiences of visitors and harasses wildlife.

The development of four-stroke snowmobiles has helped reduce air and noise emissions, compared with the more common two-stroke engines. But pollution from even the newer models remains greater than that of modern automobiles. Yellowstone’s preferred motorized winter sightseeing option is snowcoaches.

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