Besides dumping more than 50,000 gallons of raw gasoline into Yellowstone National Park each winter, snowmobile emissions are making park rangers sick, according to environmental groups who want the machines banned from all national parks.
The groups have petitioned OSHA to study snowmobile emissions to determine whether they violate standards protecting worker health. In addition, they have asked EPA to create regulations for snowmobile emissions.
Snowmobiles are permitted in 28 of the nation's 378 parks, but the heaviest use is in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in Wyoming, and in Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota. The snowmobiles are only allowed on roads used by other vehicles or on frozen lakes that are used by boats during warmer months.
At Yellowstone, three of four entrances are only accessible by snowmobiles during the winter months, said Cheryl Matthews, a spokeswoman for Yellowstone.
"Some of our rangers have complained of headaches from the fumes," Matthews said. "We have put a different air filtering system in the kiosks where the rangers are and have allowed tickets to be sold at businesses in the township to alleviate the long lines."
In a letter to EPA the environmental group, known as Bluewater Network, said snowmobiles are one of the nation's largest sources of "unchecked pollution."
About 120,000 snowmobiles go into Yellowstone each year, and at Old Faithful geyser, snowmobiles create more pollution in one weekend than a year's worth of automobile traffic, the petition claims.
"The snowmobile industry is literally making a killing in our most treasured parks," said Russell Long, Executive Director of Bluewater Network, an environmental group. "It's ironic that in Yellowstone National Park, an area set aside for its awe-inspiring grandeur, people are getting sick because of air quality."
OSHA and EPA have not yet reviewed the petitions.