WASHINGTON -- Congres-sional critics of a National Park Service plan to ban snowmobile use in most parks blasted the agency Thursday, calling the ban an unjustified move to please environmentalists by further restricting federal land use.
''It really is crazy what they're trying to do here,'' said Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
The Park Service announced last month it was banning nearly all snowmobile traffic in 25 national parks, recreation areas and other Park Service lands where snowmachines had been allowed. Conservationists estimated about 180,000 snowmobilers used Park Service land last year.
Hearings in both the House and Senate Thursday gave snowmobilers a chance to vent their anger at the agency and lawmakers a chance to grill the Interior Department official who announced the ban.
That official, Assistant Interior Secretary Donald Barry, stood his ground. Barry said the snowmobile ban merely enforces regulations the Park Service had not been following and will protect parks from pollution.
''This is not about closure of national parks to the American public. This is about restricting a form of access to national parks,'' Barry said. He compared the snowmobile ban to rules preventing people from riding motorcycles up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
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