Crater Lake likely to ban snowmobiles: Feds prohibit vehicles in national parks
April 28, 2000
By PAUL FATTIG
CRATER LAKE — The door hasn’t slammed shut just yet, but it appears to be closing on snowmobilers riding into Crater Lake National Park.
The National Park Service on Thursday issued a ban on recreational use of snowmobiles at nearly all national parks, including Crater Lake, citing “significant adverse environmental effect” on the park system.
However, snowmobiles are not yet restricted at Crater Lake, pending a review of the new regulations and potential exemptions, cautioned Superintendent Chuck Lundy.
“It’s not black-and-white, but the table is certainly tilted,” he said.
“As we speak, I’m undergoing a preliminary review of guidance and direction we’re receiving from Washington (D.C.),” he added. “We will be in discussion with the regional director before we make a conclusive statement about the impact.”
The looming ban angers Grants Pass resident John Bastian, president of the Rogue Valley Snowmobilers.
“It’s just another step in closing us down — it’s a no-good, rotten deal,” Bastian said. “They didn’t talk to us. They should talk to someone face-to-face, not come in the back door like this.
“This is supposed to be America,” he added. “I don’t know how they can do this.”
Oregon’s only national park is a popular recreational site for snowmobilers from Southern Oregon, he said, adding that most snowmobilers don’t abuse the privilege.
“People go in on one trail and come back on one trail,” he said. “They look at the lake. It’s a great trip.”
Closing the national park to snowmobilers is just the first step, he warned.
“They want to close the entire national forests to us — period,” he said. “That’s what they are after.”
Bastian said he was waiting to hear from state and national snowmobile associations to decide what action may be taken.
“We’re organizing,” he said. “We’ll be doing whatever we can to try to change this.”
The park receives from 3,000 to 3,500 visits by snowmobilers each year with the season typically ending by late April or early May, according to park officials.
They are among the more than 180,000 snowmobilers nationwide who use the national park system each winter. Critics have complained that snowmobiles account for significant air pollution, noise and damage to a park’s wildlife and environment.
The Blue Water Network and 60 other environmental groups filed a petition for the ban with the park service more than a year ago. They claimed the agency had not enforced its own regulations that required close monitoring of snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles in parks and a ban if they were found to harm the environment.
The agency acknowledged that it had failed to monitor snowmobile use and, in violation of its own regulations, failed to adequately monitor the impact of them on the environment.
In making the announcement, Assistant Interior Secretary Donald J. Barry called snowmobiles “noisy, antiquated machines that are no longer welcome in our national parks.”
The only exceptions to the ban are parks in Alaska and the Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota, and in a few exemptions such as where the vehicles are considered necessary for access to adjacent private lands or inholdings.
None of the exemptions are expected to apply at Crater Lake, although the staff will take a close look, Lundy reiterated.
A winter-use plan in the mid-1990s at the park allowed snowmobiling on the north entrance road to where it joins Rim Drive, he said.
“This is really the first national review of snowmobile use under series of guidance documents that started with President Nixon,” he said. “We are being asked to look at the parks’ enabling legislation and executive orders … this is really the first comprehensive review of this type of use.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Where they’re banned
The following lists national park units in the Northwest where snowmobiles are being banned immediately, according to the National Park Service:
Crater Lake (Oregon)
Mount Rainier (Washington)
North Cascades (Washington)
Lake Chelan (Washington)
Ross Lake (Washington)