The Washington Post
Bush Backs Ban On Snowmobiles In 2 Wyo. Parks
GOP Seeks Future 'Limited' Use
By Eric Pianin
Tuesday, April 24, 2001
The Bush administration gave the go-ahead yesterday to
a Clinton administration ban on recreational snowmobiling
in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in the latest
move by the White House to shore up the president's environmental
But the White House said it still hoped an agreement would
eventually be reached to allow "limited recreational
use" of snowmobiles in the two Wyoming parks.
The snowmobile ban, issued in January on the day former
president Bill Clinton left office, followed years of controversy
over snowmobiling in the parks that pitted environmentalists
concerned about air pollution and noise against snowmobile
manufacturers, sportsmen and nearby communities that benefit
from winter tourism.
Within hours of his inauguration, President Bush put a
hold on the snowmobiling rule as part of a wider review
of about 175 regulations issued by the Clinton administration.
Yesterday, the Interior Department announced that it would
not stand in the way of the new regulation that would ban
snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton by the winter
While yesterday's decision marked a victory for environmental
groups, the dispute is far from settled. Republican lawmakers
are attempting to modify or revoke the new winter management
plans for Yellowstone, while Interior and Justice Department
lawyers are negotiating a settlement of a suit brought by
the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association and
others that might allow the use of cleaner, less noisy snowmobiles.
"We believe an agreement can and will be reached that
will provide for limited recreational use while ensuring
that we protect our national parks," said Scott McClellan,
a White House spokesman.
The administration's handling of the snowmobile ban is
viewed by many environmental groups as another test of the
president's attitude toward the environment. After weeks
of criticism for environmental moves early on in his administration,
particularly his decision to withdraw from the 1997 Kyoto
agreement on global warming and to reject a lower standard
for levels of arsenic in drinking water, Bush last week
announced a series of more environmentally-friendly decisions.
He said the United States will sign a treaty aimed at reducing
the release of dangerous chemicals in the environment, and
the administration pledged to come up with a new rule on
arsenic next year that would call for a reduction of at
least 60 percent from allowable levels. The White House
also endorsed a Clinton administration rule that will require
thousands of businesses to reveal the details of their emissions
of lead into the environment.
According to a Washington Post-ABC News Poll, fewer than
half of those surveyed -- 47 percent -- said they approved
of Bush's handling of the environment. The poll also found
a wide gap between the public's desire to protect the environment
and their perception of Bush's commitment to do so.
Meanwhile, the White House yesterday reaffirmed Bush's
commitment to a plan to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in an effort to boost domestic
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine
Todd Whitman said over the weekend that a White House energy
task force's report due out next month would not specifically
cite drilling in the refuge as a vital option. Senior Bush
adviser Karl Rove reportedly told a Republican consultant
the president would not push for drilling in the area.
However, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday
that "the president believes we can and we should,
in an environmentally responsible way, open up a small portion
of ANWR so we can explore for oil."
In choosing to go along with the Clinton administration's
snowmobiling regulations, the White House and Interior Department
officials opted for an approach that would give them more
flexibility to ultimately ease the ban than if they tried
to formally undo the rule.
Environmentalists and National Park Service officials contend
that snowmobiles are too noisy and that their exhaust hurts
the parks' wildlife and natural habitats. Opponents of the
ban contend that it would damage businesses and towns that
rely on snowmobiling for winter income. They also argue
that the snowmobiles are confined to roads and paths that
are heavily traveled by cars and trucks during the rest
of the year.
Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), a leading critic of the regulation,
said the Clinton administration ignored snowmobile design
advances that would lessen pollution and noise. "What
we're looking for is not a continuation of the present program
but significant changes in the machines and the management
of them in the parks," Thomas said.
Congress last year delayed by two years the date of the
ban -- to the winter of 2003-2004 -- which will give the
administration, lawmakers, state and local officials, and
private businesses more time to work out a compromise.
Administration officials say they believe the negotiations
over the snowmobile manufacturers' lawsuit may provide the
forum for a final deal, but some environmental groups complain
that they are being excluded from the talks.
"If the administration were really coming out in support
of the national parks, then the settlement negotiations
would cease immediately," said Rose Fennell of the