SNOWMOBILE FACT SHEET
Source: http://www.earthisland.org/bw/ (The Bluewater Network)
Approximately 2.5 million snowmobiles are in use today. Sales have doubled in the last 5 years, with annual sales of around 165,000 units. Snowmobiles are permitted in 27 park units. More than 70,000 enter Yellowstone National Park every year. An estimated 40,000 snowmobiles access Voyageurs National Park (MN) annually.
Two-stroke engines, which power most snowmobiles, have been identified as one of the largest unchecked sources of pollution nationwide. Snowmobiles emit a number of pollutants including aldehydes, 1,3-butadiene, benzene, and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). All are believed to cause deleterious health effects in humans and animals well short of fatal doses.
According to CARB statistics, one hour on a single snowmobile emits as much hydrocarbon pollution as driving a modern car for one year.
Field studies confirm that snowmobiles discharge roughly one-third of their fuel unburned directly into the environment. Snowmobiles dump more than 55,000 gallons of unburned fuel and 2,500 gallons of raw 2-cycle oil into the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem every winter. Nationally, snowmobiles emit millions of gallons of fuel every year.
Every weekend, snowmobiles at Old Faithful create as much air pollution as automobiles do all year in Yellowstone.
Carbon monoxide (CO) readings at many park entrances exceed Federal health standards.
The highest carbon monoxide levels nationwide were recorded at Yellowstone's West Entrance. The Park Service pumps fresh air into its offices to curb dizziness, headaches, throat irritation, and nausea.
Park visitors have reported tasting the blue haze in snowmobile areas.
Air pollution at trailheads and snowmobile corriders which often run along rivers and streams increases the acidic and toxic concentrations of nitrogen, sulfate and hydrocarbon compounds in snow. Elevated levels of NOx also cause acid rain and acid snow. Accumulated pollutants are released during the spring thaw.
The release of pollutants during snowmelt is connected to increased acidity levels 100 times higher than normal in surface water.
Elevated acid levels cause higher death rates for aquatic insects, amphibians, and trout.
Trout exposed to hydrocarbon pollution have lower reproductive success, decreased ability to withstand current, and stunted growth.
Scientists warn that acidity fluctuations can disable a watershed's ability to regulate its own pH level, which could trigger system-wide problems.
Studies show that most of the accumulated pollutants are released during the first 20% of snowmelt, creating a potential for toxic shock among aquatic species.
The Organic Act of 1916 requires the National Park Service to retain the "fundamental purpose" of our National Park system by doing whatever is necessary to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein [emphasis added] and to provide for the enjoyment of the same [so as to] leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." Permitting snowmobiles is incompatible with the National Park charter.
Over 1,300 bison were shot outside of Yellowstone National Park's boundaries last
year to protect cattle herds from an alleged disease. Groomed snowmobile trails
encourage bison to leave park boundaries at an unprecedented and deadly rate.
Snowmobiles threaten bald eagles, an "endangered species," by disrupting
courtship rituals, nest initiation, and incubation.To read more, a subscription is needed: Click here to subscribe