Leaked Administration Documents Show Supposedly 'Quiet' Snowmobiles Loud Enough to Damage Hearing in Yellowstone

New Data Undercuts Case for Re-Introduction of Snowmobiles in

Yellowstone National Park; the Bush Administration Knew

as Early as January But Has Said Nothing Publicly

Apr 14, 2004, 01:00 ET from Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees, Washington,

    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
     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,