Young proposes more Denali access for snowmobiles

Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Don Young would open more of Denali National Park and Preserve to snowmobiles.

Snowmobile access to the park has been the source of argument for years. Young, R-Alaska, said he believes he has crafted a solution that would be acceptable to all parties.

''This compromise gives each side what they say they want,'' he said.

The original portion of Denali National Park, the 2 million acres set aside by Congress in 1917, is now closed to snowmobiles. Under Young's bill, most would remain off limits but the southeast corner would be at least potentially open under the bill.

''We're real happy with the initial draft,'' said Kevin Hite, president of the Alaska State Snowmobilers Association.

Linda Paganelli of Healy, who follows Denali issues for the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, said the bill would contradict what Alaskans have said they want for the park.

''It essentially would revoke the National Park Service regulations that underwent an exhaustive public process and enjoy overwhelming public support both within and outside Alaska,'' she said.

The problem, Hite said, is that those regulations do not follow what Congress intended when it expanded Denali and other parks and refuges in the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Snowmobilers say the law guarantees them access to all such federal conservation units in Alaska unless the government shows that the use is hurting wildlife or vegetation.

But, beyond the principle, snowmobilers do not want access to the entire park, so Young's bill is a compromise, Hite said.

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