Congress Holds Hearing on Jet Skis in National Parks

Date:   March 16, 2006

Carl Schneebeck, Bluewater Network, division of Friends of the Earth, cell: 415-845-8409
Sean Smith, National Parks Conservation Association, 206-903-1444, ext. 21
Kristen Brengel, The Wilderness Society, cell: 202-320-2913 



Congress Holds Hearing on Jet Skis in National Parks

Industry Pushes to Open Parks to Damaging, Unsafe Use

Bluewater Network ?A Division of Friends of the Earth today testified before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee about industry? pressure on the National Park Service to allow personal watercraft, commonly known by the trade name Jet Ski, in parks nationwide. Bluewater advocated that the agency needs to continue to carefully review the potential harm to parks and visitors when developing park regulations over the thrill craft, and heed the Park Service? 2001 Management Policies, which call for park protection to be paramount in decision-making.

While no irony is lost on the Jet Ski industry? need for speed, it is not how hastily the National Park Service conducts these rulemakings that is vital to fulfilling its mandate, rather how thoroughly,?said Carl A. Schneebeck, public lands campaign director for Bluewater Network ?a division of Friends of the Earth in his written testimony. Schneebeck testified on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association and The Wilderness Society.

Since its inception, the gold standard for the National Park Service has been to preserve and protect park resources. Visitors expect park units to be safe and protected when they visit them and this expectation should not be compromised,?he said.

Chair Candice Miller (R-10-MI) called today? hearing in the House Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs to examine rules governing personal watercraft use in the National Park System. Personal watercraft is banned from nearly all national park sites because of environmental damage and a poor safety record. At this time, the Park Service is evaluating whether to allow Jet Skis in six park sites to ensure that the thrill craft do not conflict with the Park Service mission, damage natural and cultural resources, threaten public safety, or impact wildlife.

Although a mere two percent of navigable waters in the U.S. are within National Park Service jurisdiction, industry is pressuring the Park Service to allow Jet Skis in more parks.

Research at Cape Canaveral National Seashore in Florida found that high speed Jet Ski use in shallow waters displaces wildlife from their preferred habitats, disrupts foraging activities, and even results in direct mortality. At Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina, the Park Service said that personal watercraft degrade visitor experiences, reporting that prior to the park? ban on the use of personal watercraft, the number-one source of visitor complaints was the others?use of the craft.

National Parks Conservation Association Pacific Regional Director Sean Smith said, ?ndustry cannot dictate how we manage our national parks. It is up to each of us, as park visitors and stewards, to advocate for the best protections for the places we enjoy.?p>

The use of Jet Skis in America? national parks could also be affected by the administration? controversial rewrite of the national parks?Management Policies. The draft rewrite removes the mandate that park managers consider noise pollution in decision-making, and removes the policies?existing language about preservation being paramount over all else.

?ational Parks are fantastic places for Americans and international visitors to enjoy for their natural beauty and to have a safe experience in nature,?said Kristen Brengel of The Wilderness Society. ?he agency has a duty to protect visitors and the natural environment. Regulating Jet Ski use by developing careful and lawful regulations is essential and takes time. The agency has studied and regulated the use in many parks in the last five years; we hope Congress learns that the Park Service is complying with laws and policies governing parks and will complete the regulations after the agency has taken a careful look at the impacts of this use. ?

Other witnesses testifying today included the National Park Service and industry representatives Bombardier Recreational Products (makers of Sea Doo watercraft), Motorsports of Miami, and The Trade Partnership.

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