|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||June 30, 2006|
Jim Stratton, NPCA, 907-277-6722, ext. 23 or 907-229-9761 (cell)
Recreational ATV Use in Wrangells Threatens to Close Trails, Destroy Park Resources
Groups Challenge National Park Service Over Illegal Recreational ATV Use in the Park
ANCHORAGE, AK – The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Alaska Center for the Environment, and The Wilderness Society filed a lawsuit yesterday challenging the National Park Service over illegal all-terrain vehicle (ATV) use on nine trails in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. The lawsuit seeks to protect the park from damaging and unregulated ATV use. Anchorage-based public interest environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska is providing representation.
"It is obvious when you’re out in the park that the ATV riding is posing irreversible threats—scars on the land from ATV trails are several hundred yards wide in some places," said NPCA Alaska Regional Director Jim Stratton. "If we don’t do something to protect this otherwise pristine park from this abuse, the damage will continue to expand and the healing will never begin. This activity is risking the very reason the area is designated a national park."
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, referred to as the mountain kingdom of North America, is the largest unit in the National Park System. The park includes the continent’s largest assemblage of glaciers and the greatest collection of peaks, above 16,000 feet, as well as Mount St. Elias, the second highest peak in the United States.
"ATV enjoyment is appropriate in many places in Alaska, however, unregulated recreational riding is not compatible with most people’s view of a national park. The damage being done in Wrangells could cause nine trails in the park to be closed to all users, including local subsistence users," said Randy Virgin, executive director of Alaska Center for the Environment. "These trails need to be managed for the allowed purposes only."
National Park Service rules on ATV use allow for only limited riding under specific circumstances and only when such riding on park trails has been found not to impact the purposes for which the park was created. The necessary analysis required to ensure that Wrangells remains healthy if ATV riding is permitted has not been done.
"The National Park Service has ignored existing laws and regulations designed to protect park resources and values for present and future generations," said Mike Steeves, the plaintiffs’ attorney from Trustees for Alaska. "We filed this lawsuit to prevent further damage and to compel the Park Service to manage the park responsibly."
Thursday’s lawsuit does not seek to restrict access to the park by the local subsistence users living in resident zone communities around Wrangells.
The impacted trails in Wrangells are: Suslota Lake, Tanada Lake, Caribou Creek, Lost Lake, Trail Creek, Reeve Field, Bommerang Lake, Soda Lake, and Copper Lake.
IMAGES OF TRAIL DAMAGE FROM ATVs:
= = Trails off the Nabesna Road going to Copper and Tanada lakes
= = Mudhole on Tanada Lake Trail
= = Tanada Lake Trail