Federal Court Rules That Park Visitors Have a Right To Enjoy Serenity and Tranquility in Our National Treasures

Federal Court Rules That Park Visitors Have a Right To Enjoy Serenity and Tranquility in Our National Treasures

Danielle Fugere, Friends of the Earth, [email protected], (415) 577-5594
Leslie Jones, The Wilderness Society, [email protected], (202) 833-2300
Howard Crystal, Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, [email protected], (202) 588-5206

Federal Court Rules That Park Visitors Have a Right To Enjoy Serenity and Tranquility in Our National Treasures

Washington, DC — The National Park Service violated federal law in deciding to allow unlimited Jet Ski use in two national parks – Gulf Islands National Seashore (in Florida and Mississippi) and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (in Michigan), ruled Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in an opinion released yesterday. Judge Kessler’s 88-page ruling found that the “serenity, the tranquility — indeed, the majesty — of these two national treasures” is being compromised by “these highly polluting and noisy vehicles,” and directed the Park Service to reconsider whether to allow Jet Skis in these parks.

“Millions of visitors enjoy our parks to canoe, fish and bird watch in these special areas,” said Leslie Jones, General Counsel of The Wilderness Society. “The Court found what Americans know — recreation opportunities that protect, not harm, irreplaceable wildlife and shoreline habitat of these national parks should be preserved.”

This ruling is the culmination of more than ten years of work by plaintiffs and other groups to protect park resources and maintain compatible recreation opportunities. In 2000, the Park Service banned these machines, but allowed individual parks to reintroduce them based on park-specific findings that they would not impair park resources. The Court’s ruling rejects the Park Service’s finding that jet skis would not impair the Gulf Islands and Pictured Rocks parks, and explains in detail the adverse impacts Jet Skis cause.

“This ruling should be a wake-up call to the Park Service to carefully consider Jet Ski use throughout the national park system and its impacts on the parks’ water and air quality, soundscapes, and wildlife,” said plaintiffs’ lead attorney Howard Crystal. “In light of the Court’s findings of harm, the agency should heed the Court’s suggestion that it allow Jet Ski users to, in the Court’s words, ‘enjoy their vehicles in other, equally accessible areas, without threatening’ the national parks.

For example, bottlenose dolphins are the most common marine mammal documented at Gulf Islands. The Court emphasized the Park Service’s finding that “when exposed to the noise from just two Jet Skis, which is far less than the expected number on a typical summer day, the bottlenose dolphins would experience ‘substantially reduced echolocation and communication abilities.'” Looking at these and many other impacts, the Court repeatedly asked why the Park Service had concluded that these adverse impacts should be permitted in a National Park.

We know that oil and wildlife don’t mix, whether from an undersea gusher or a fuel-gushing Jet Ski,” said Danielle Fugere, Legal Director for Friends of the Earth. “Our national parks and wildlife are already experiencing intense threats from surrounding development and it is critical we do all we can to keep them from avoidable harm.

Plaintiffs Friends of the Earth and The Wilderness Society are represented in the suit by the Washington, D.C. public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

A copy of the Court’s ruling is available here.


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