Snowmachining groups file suit to open Denali National Park

Posted: Sunday, August 06, 2000

FAIRBANKS - Two snowmachining groups have filed a federal lawsuit aimed at opening 2 million acres of Denali National Park and Preserve to riders.

The Alaska State Snowmobile Association, the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association and three individuals say the National Park Service illegally imposed a ban on riding inside the original park boundaries.

The plaintiffs claim the park service twisted the law regarding what constitutes traditional use of the park.

``It's just atrocious that they've ignored tradition,'' said ASSA President Kevin Hite. ``They've ignored years of winter recreation activities.''

Last year the group won a lawsuit against the park service's temporary ban on snowmachines on land in the original park.

U.S. District Judge John Sedwick said the term ``traditional activities'' wasn't defined in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, and for that reason the park service couldn't justify a snowmachine ban.

The park service has since defined traditional activities to exclude snowmachines and other uses.

Hite said the lawsuit challenges the park service's traditional activities definition and the conclusion that any snowmachine use of the old park damages the environment.

Snowmachines are allowed on the 4 million acres added to the park and preserve under the 1980 lands act.

Denali National Park spokeswoman Jane Tranel said the agency is confident about its chances in court.

``We feel strongly that our environmental assessment and traditional activities definition will stand up,'' Tranel said.

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