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Global warming
Wildlife protection
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Snowmobile regulation
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The Bush administration's environmental record: National Parks

 
  

Project: The Bush administration's environmental record

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November 12, 2002

       The National Park Service (NPS) announces a plan to reverse a Clinton-era ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The NPS proposal would limit the number of snowmobiles permitted in the parks per day to 1,100 by December 2003. However, beginning with the 2004-2005 winter season, there would be no restrictions on the number of snowmobiles permitted in the parks. [Contra Costa Times, 11/10/2002; The Washington Post, 11/12/2002; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] The proposal is made despite the National Park Service having received some 360,000 emails and letters on the issue, eighty percent of which were in support of the ban. [Contra Costa Times, 11/10/2002] Lifting the ban on snowmobiles would have a considerable impact given that according to the EPA's own figures, the emissions from a single snowmobile can equal that of 100 automobiles. [National Park Service, 5/2000; Environmental Protection Agency, 2001; Blue Water Network, 1999] The EPA had recommended in 1999 that snowmobiles be barred from the two parks in order to provide the “best available protection” for air quality, wildlife and the health of people visiting and working in the park. After coming to office, the Bush administration ordered a review of the policy as part of a settlement with snowmobile manufacturers who had challenged the ban. [The Washington Post, 11/12/2002]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service (NPS), Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park
          

January 10, 2003

       Assistant Secretary of the Interior Craig Manson writes to the State of Montana and withdraws a December 2002 environmental impact assessment conducted by National Park Service scientists which had concluded that the emissions from a proposed 780-megawatt coal-fired Roundup Power Plant would negatively affect visibility and air quality at Yellowstone National Park, located 112 miles away from the plant's proposed site. Manson, a former Sacramento judge, claims that “weather events” had skewed the results of the study. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 10/31/2003; PEER, 3/16/2003; National Parks Conservation Association, 3/2003; Natural Resources Defense Council, 4/2004, pg 28; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Craig Manson  Additional Info 
          

February 20, 2003

       The National Park Service (NPS) releases its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which favors an option to reverse the November 2000 decision to ban all snowmobiles from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks by the 2003-2004 winter season (see November 12, 2002). The new EIS—done at a cost of $2.4 million to taxpayers—results from the settlement of a lawsuit that had been filed by the state of Wyoming and the snowmobile industry to reverse the November 2000 ban. The study concludes that the “preferred option” would be to phase in a requirement that all snowmobiles used in the park be four-stroke sleds and that all operators be required to either hire a guide, pass a guide's course or accompany someone who has passed it. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 2/21/2003; Yellowstone National Park, 2/20/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] Former NPS leaders condemn the report's recommendation, insisting that the 2000 plan—backed by earlier scientific studies which had determined a strict ban would be the best policy to protect air quality, sound emissions, wildlife and human health, and safety—remains the most popular with the public. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 2/21/2003; Caspar Star Tribune, 2/21/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] Critics have warned that reversing the ban would generate significantly more air pollution in the park—twice the carbon monoxide and six times the nitrogen oxide as the November 2000 ban. [Caspar Star Tribune, 2/21/2003 Sources: Testimony Of Hope Sieck Representing The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, March 13, 2002] The decision to halt the phase-out is well-received by industry leaders. “We are grateful that the Bush administration has given this issue a closer look,” Clark Collins, executive director of the Blue Ribbon Coalition, tells the Boseman's Daily Chronicle. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle, 2/21/2003]
People and organizations involved: National Park Service (NPS), Bush administration
          

March 25, 2003

       The National Park Service decides to reverse the Clinton administration's decision to prohibit snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. The decision ignores earlier scientific analysis concluding that a snowmobile ban is the preferred policy to protect air quality, sound emissions, wildlife, human health and safety (see February 20, 2003). [USA Today, 4/24/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: National Park Service (NPS), Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Bush administration
          

July 2, 2003

       Interior Secretary Gale Norton presents President George Bush with a report detailing the achievements of the National Park Service. The report calls attention to the $2.9 billion that the Bush administration says it has set aside for the park's maintenance backlog. [National Park Service, 7/2/2003] But the figure is misleading because it actually refers the park's entire maintenance budget. Only $370 million of that amount represents funds allocated to the maintenance backlog. Moreover, as the National Parks Conservation Association notes, “the president's budget is [actually] contributing to the backlog by ignoring the annual needs of the national parks, which continue to operate with only two-thirds of the needed funding.” [CNN, 8/15/2003; Salt Lake City Tribune, 7/09/2003; Salt Lake City Tribune, 8/16/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.] According to the General Accounting Office, the Park Service needs upwards of $6.8 billion to complete the deferred maintenance and repairs. Critics of the administration's record also note that the administration's lax enforcement of clean air policies and its plan to replace some parks' staff with private contractors are serious threats to the national park system. [Salt Lake City Tribune, 8/16/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: National Park Service (NPS), Bush administration, George W. Bush, Gale A. Norton
          

December 11, 2003

       The National Park Service issues a final rule announcing that the number of snowmobiles permitted in Yellowstone Park will be restricted to 950 per day when parks open for the winter season on December 17. Eighty percent of the sleds must be commercially guided and meet “best available technology” (BAT) requirements. The remaining twenty percent will not have to be BAT. For the 2004-2005 winter, regulations on the maximum daily number of snowmobiles will remain the same, except that all snowmobiles will be required to meet BAT standards. Similar rules will be imposed on the use of snowmobiles in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway. [National Park Service, 12/11/2003] The decision is made in spite of the fact that independent federal studies had previously determined that reversing the Clinton-era phase-out would result in a significant increase of carbon monoxide pollution and nitrogen oxide emissions. [Caspar Star Tribune, 2/21/2003; Greater Yellowstone Coalition, n.d.; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, National Park Service (NPS), Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park
          

February 20, 2004

       Chrysandra Walter, the deputy director of the National Park Service's northeast regional office in Philadelphia, emails a memo to park superintendents working in 12 eastern states, from Virginia to Maine, requesting that they provide the Philadelphia office with a list of the “service level adjustments,” or cut-backs, they plan to make in order to accommodate the 2003 budget cuts. The memo is a summary of instructions that had been given to all regional directors on February 17, by Randy Jones, the deputy director of the National Park Service. The request is made so that the office will not be caught off guard by media inquiries. “I don't want to see on the ‘Today’ show that some superintendent is closing the gate for lack of money without us knowing about it in advance,” National Park Service spokesman David Barna will explain in March 2004 when the memo is obtained and released by the Coalition of Concerned National Park Retirees, the Association of National Park Rangers and the Campaign to Protect America's Lands. “Of course, we don't want to be embarrassed,” he adds. Included in the memo is a list of suggested cut backs: “Close the visitor center on all federal holidays....,” “Eliminate all guided ranger tours,” “Let the manicured grasslands grow all summer,” “Eliminate life guard services at 1 of the park's 3 guarded beaches,” “Close the visitor center for the months of November, January & February,” “Turn one of our four campgrounds over to a concession permittee,” and “Close the park every Sunday and Monday.” The Philadelphia office also instructs the superintendents on how they are supposed to explain the parks' reduced level of service to the media. For example, the memo says that if they need to inform the public on the change in “hours or days of operation for example, that you state what the park's plans are and not to directly indicate that ‘this is a cut’ in comparison to last year's operation. If you are personally pressed by the media in an interview, we all agreed to use the terminology of ‘service level adjustment’ due to fiscal constraints as a means of describing what actions we are taking.” [The Washington Post, 3/16/2004; Fresno Bee, 3/18/2004; Arizona Daily Star, 3/20/2004; National Geographic, 4/19/2004; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: US Park Service Northeast Region Internal Memo, February 20, 2004]
People and organizations involved: Randy Jones, Chrysandra Walter, National Park Service (NPS), Bush administration
          

June 1, 2004

       The US Court of Appeals rules on a lawsuit brought against the EPA by two environmental groups who argued that a 2002 EPA rule requiring snowmobile manufactures to cut tailpipe emissions by 50 percent by 2012 was too lenient. The snowmobile industry argued that the EPA did not even have the authority to impose pollution limits on new snowmobiles. The court disagreed with the industry's argument and ruled on the side of the environmentalists. The three-judge panel questioned the logic behind the EPA decision that 30 percent of new snowmobiles should be exempt from clean engine requirements and told the agency it needed to provide additional information. The industry explained that 100 percent compliance would cost the industry too much and force manufacturers to stop making certain models. But the court saw nothing wrong with requiring manufactures to discontinue older models equipped with dirty engines. [Associated Press, 6/1/2004]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency
          


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