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 Park Service. 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 such warning. 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 wildlife." 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,