WASHINGTON - December 5 - Friends of the Earth, The Wilderness Society, and the National Parks Conservation Association today called on the Department of the Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and National Park Service Director Mary Bomar to uphold their commitment to protect and preserve the National Park System by reinstating the agency’s previous decisions to discontinue jet ski use at Gulf Islands (FL and MS) and Cape Lookout National Seashores (NC) and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (MI).
In 2000, the National Park Service concluded that jet ski use, a “controversial, recreational” activity, was inappropriate in most areas of the National Park System. The agency said jet skis (also known as personal watercraft) are “high performance vessels designed for speed and maneuverability and are often used to perform stunt-like maneuvers.” The agency focused on harm to the environment, conflicts with other visitors, and general safety issues when it decided to largely ban the use throughout the Park System.
Based on these negative impacts, many units moved to eliminate jet ski use, including Cape Lookout, Gulf Islands, and Pictured Rocks, where jet ski use was discontinued from 2002 to 2006. Last year, the agency reversed itself and began finalizing new regulations allowing jet ski use back in these park units. These reversals violate both the recently adopted Park Service Management Policies and a settlement agreement reached by the Park Service and Bluewater Network in 2001. (The Bluewater Network is a division of Friends of the Earth).
“The Park Service banned jet ski use in most areas of the National Park System based on findings that these machines threaten wildlife, damage water quality, and spoil other people’s visits,” said Danielle Fugere of Friends of the Earth. “The 2006 decision to re-open Cape Lookout, Gulf Islands, and Pictured Rocks to jet ski use without any new data appears to have been based on politics, not sound science.”
For example, in 2001, the Park Service decided that jet ski use is inappropriate at Gulf Islands National Seashore—a 160 mile stretch of barrier islands in the Gulf of Mexico, off the shores of Florida and Mississippi. To support this decision, the agency explained that “PWC use poses considerable threats to estuarine flora and fauna, pollutes waters essential to estuarine and marine health, poses unacceptable risks of injury to operators and bystanders, and conflicts with the majority of other longstanding uses of the Seashore.” Nonetheless, in May 2006 the Park Service reopened Gulf Islands to jet skis.
“The mission of the National Park System is not debatable. From the shores of Cape Lookout to the waters of Lake Superior at Pictured Rocks, these special places must be conserved for future generations,” said Kristen Brengel of The Wilderness Society. “We hope Secretary Kempthorne and Director Bomar uphold their commitment to the mission of the Park Service and restore the protections for these park units by reinstating the bans on jet skis.”
In August 2006, Secretary Kempthorne endorsed the National Park Service management policies. Among other direction, the policies state:
- “…when there is a conflict between conserving resources and values and providing for enjoyment of them, conservation is to be predominant.”
- “The National Park Service will preserve, to the greatest extent possible, the natural soundscapes of parks.”
“Our National Park System holds some of our country’s most renowned beaches and wild lands. All Americans should be able to enjoy these special places, not just for specific activities and definitely not for motorized recreation that damages waterways and disturbs the natural atmosphere,” said Mary Munson of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Jet skis are fine for some water bodies and can be enjoyed in lakes, seashores and rivers throughout the country, but in the national parks at issue here, their use violates a national standard of protection. We hope the Interior Secretary and National Park Service Director will allow future generations to visit the parks free of disturbances by ending damaging and dangerous jet ski use in Cape Lookout, Pictured Rocks, and Gulf Islands.”
Read the Notice of intent to sue letter (PDF, 786 KB)