Yellowstone workers complain about exhaust-related ailments |

Yellowstone workers complain about exhaust-related ailments

The Associated Press

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) – Yellowstone National Park employees have reported headaches, nausea, lethargy, sore throats and stinging eyes while monitoring the thousands of snowmobiles entering the park.

The symptoms match those of carbon monoxide poisoning, and the reports bolster park arguments that the machines adversely affect park air quality.

In one case, ranger Rick Bennett wrote in a medical complaint that he developed a sore throat and headache after being at work less than an hour at a West Yellowstone, Mont., checkpoint in December.

From Dec. 27-31, 4,797 snowmobiles entered the park there, ”the busiest, most intense snowmobile visitation I have seen in my time at Yellowstone,” Bennett wrote.

Bonnie Gafney, who is responsible for the work schedule for rangers at the West Entrance, said in a report she tries not to station a ranger at the gate more than once a week ”for health reasons.”

Also, park officials have pumped fresher air into the ticket kiosks. But that does not help those working the line of waiting snowmobiles, weeding out too-loud machines, underage operators and unregistered sleds.

Ranger Bob Siebert, who oversees the entry workers and law enforcement staff, said the air is not clean along the snowmobile corridors.

”It isn’t a healthy situation,” he said. ”On bad days, we’re right up there with the bad air of big cities.”

Siebert said he would like to rotate staff off the line each hour for a half-hour of fresh air, but his budget does not allow it.

Such reports bolster National Park Service arguments on closing Yellowstone and most other national parks to snowmobiles. The Park Service in November said it would phase the machines out of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks by the winter of 2003-04, citing the environmental impact.

In December, the International Snowmobile Manufacturers’ Association and the Wyoming State Snowmobile Association sued to overturn the ban. Snowmobile advocacy groups claim concerns about air pollution in the park have been overblown and the ban is based on poor science. The ISMA argues that ”there have been no independent scientific studies that have demonstrated snowmobiles cause significant harm to humans, animals or the environment.”

Conservation groups like the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Bluewater Network counter that air pollution in the park exceeds federal Clean Air Act standards.

”When the caretakers of America’s first national park are treated like canaries in a coal mine, something is terribly wrong,” said Michael Scott, program director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

”It’s an injustice to the employees, and it’s an unmistakable sign that the Park Service was wise in its decision to phase out snowmobile use and emphasize a healthier, safer and more appropriate form of access to the national park,” he said.

This week, the Society of Automotive Engineers will host the Clean Snowmobile Challenge, which invites college students to demonstrate snowmobiles that have been modified to emit fewer pollutants.

A University of Buffalo student team last year demonstrated a four-stroke snowmobile engine that cut hydrocarbon emissions 99.5 percent, carbon monoxide emissions 46 percent and noise 80-90 percent.

On the Net:

Yellowstone National Park:

International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association:

Greater Yellowstone Coalition:

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.