WASHINGTON, April 14 /PRNewswire/ -- New models of four-stroke snowmobiles
-- touted as "quieter" by the Bush Administration and supposedly suitable for
use in the winter stillness of Yellowstone National Park -- are in fact nearly
as noisy as the old two-stroke machines. The snowmobiles also are loud enough
to damage hearing, according to internal Administration documents obtained,
and released today, by the Coalition of Concerned National Park Service
Retirees, a group of 230 retired employees and senior leaders of the National
According to a January 27, 2004, Yellowstone staff meeting report
(available at http://www.hastingsgroup.com/yellowstonestaff.pdf), Yellowstone
officials tested noise from four-stroke snowmobiles that were certified as
"best available technology" and approved for use in Yellowstone under the
Interior Department's controversial policy. The minutes from the January
meeting at Yellowstone show the park's safety officer informing other senior
staff that based on the tests of four-stroke snowmobiles: "Four-stroke
snowmobiles are almost as loud as two-stroke snowmobiles for the operator."
The four-stroke snowmobile test results, finalized in a so-far-unreleased
March study conducted for the National Park Service, show that 18 out of 20
snowmobile tests generated peak noise levels in excess of 100 decibels, far
over Yellowstone's new snowmobile noise standard, which promised to reduce
snowmobile noise "at full throttle to no more than 73 decibels."
The recorded sound level for 18 of the 20 snowmobiles is louder than a
pneumatic drill and many times noisier than outboard motors or busy traffic.
The key data chart from the unreleased March report is available at
http://www.hastingsgroup.com/marchchart.pdf. The March report revealed
average noise levels experienced by snowmobile riders over several hours.
Some averages approached unsafe levels. Maximum noise levels were clearly
unsafe and triggered a warning to park workers.
An employee newsletter distributed by the Yellowstone Park's Safety Office
cautioned that the noise levels were "extremely loud" and "hearing protection
(ear plugs) is required when exposed to noise above 85 decibels." (The Safety
Office document may be viewed online at
http://www.hastingsgroup.com/safetyoffice.pdf.) The National Park Service
promptly cautioned employees riding the machines to wear earplugs. However,
visitors to the Park who are also riding these machines have not received any
The Administration has said nothing about the much higher-than-expected
noise findings publicly or in court. Instead, it continues to maintain that
new four-stroke technology has solved the problem in Yellowstone of visitors
who want to escape snowmobile noise while trying to enjoy the more subtle
sounds of geysers and mud pots.
"We are releasing these documents today because the American people are
being misled about efforts to restore quiet to their first national park,"
said Bill Wade, coordinator of the Coalition of Concerned National Park
Service Retirees. "Instead of being candid with the public, this
Administration continues to suppress or misrepresent information in order to
benefit the snowmobile industry. Snowmobiles loud enough to make earplugs
necessary have no place in a national park where the emphasis is supposed to
be on preserving the natural quiet."
Under court order in December, the Park Service began implementing a
snowmobile phase-out this past winter. With dramatically reduced snowmobile
numbers, Yellowstone's air pollution also dropped dramatically. But noise
remains a problem even with low daily snowmobile entries into the Park --
fewer than 400 on average, as opposed to the 950 daily snowmobile entries the
Administration wants to allow.
"The benefits of ending snowmobile use in Yellowstone have now been
measured in terms of visitors and employees actually breathing cleaner air,"
said Rick Smith, a retired 31-year veteran of the National Park Service who
worked in Yellowstone. "At the same time, we see that remaining snowmobiles,
far from being 'quiet,' are nearly as noisy as the two-stroke snowmobiles that
have compromised the enjoyment of Yellowstone visitors for two decades. What
this tells us is that snowmobiles still don't belong in Yellowstone."
The results of Yellowstone's air and noise monitoring are consistent with
conclusions reached independently by the National Park Service and the
Environmental Protection Agency. Both agencies determined that fully phasing
out snowmobile use while providing public access on snowcoaches "yields the
lowest levels of impacts to air quality, water quality, natural quiet and
The Yellowstone documents again reflect the Administration not sharing the
truth with the American people about conditions in their national parks. Just
last month, the Interior Department was widely criticized for encouraging
national park managers to make cuts in visitor services and then hide the cuts
from the public. The earlier internal NPS documents also were released to the
public by the Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees. For more
information about those documents, go to
http://www.hastingsgroup.com/npsretirees.html on the Web.
SOURCE Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees, Washington,