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Forest Service says snowmobiles don't impact environment

Amanda Fehd
March 25, 2005
While the U.S. Forest Service hasn't finished its Environmental Impact
Statement on a proposal to lift a snowmobile ban at Sonora Pass, it does
contend the machines have no effect on the environment.

"Over-snow vehicle use, when done appropriately, does not have a lasting
effect on the physical characteristics of the proposed wilderness," said
Frank Pemberton, spokesperson for the Carson and Bridgeport ranger
districts of the Forest Service.

Scientific studies and conservationists disagree.

"They are in a la-la land," said John Brissenden, owner of Sorensen's
Resort in Hope Valley. "They haven't taken their heads out of their
office to look ... they have way too many meetings and not enough
natural resource protection."

In a well-known snowmobiling area, Yellowstone National Park, studies
have shown sleds have had an impact on air and water quality.

"Snowpack samples near heavily traveled snowmobile trails have been
correlated with elevated levels of ammonium, sulfate, benzene, and other
toxic compounds," one study states on Montana's Department of
Environmental Quality Web site

The national park once saw thousands of snowmobiles a day enter its
gates in winter. Now, riders are limited to 720 a day and must ride on
four designated roads. Nearly 3 million people visited Yellowstone last

Fisheries biologists there have found that winter recreation affects
aquatic organisms. Another study concluded that: "Heavy snowmobile
traffic in congested areas also contributes to emissions causing air
quality concerns."

Pliny Olivier, president of the Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Association, has
been to Yellowstone and was unimpressed.

Thick clouds of smog choke the entrance gates as engines run while
people are waiting to pay to get in.

"Tahoe is not Yellowstone," he said, arguing snowmobiles in Yellowstone
are no more of a pollutant than summer traffic.

"With even a thousand snowmobiles traveling on that road, how does that
compare to the traffic there during the summer? It's not even close,"
Olivier said.
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