Los Angeles Times: Snowmobiles don't belong in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, no matter how much the Department of the Interior wants to appease snowmobile manufacturers and related businesses. The winter fastness of these parks should be as inviolable as in the wilderness of Yosemite National Park, where the roaring, polluting machines never have been allowed.
The National Park Service has completed still another study of snowmobile use in the parks and come up with little or no new information. Now the Park Service is seeking yet more public comment before deciding in November whether to implement a ban that was scheduled to begin with the winter of 2003-04.
The last time the Park Service requested comment, two years ago, more than 80 percent of the thousands who responded supported the ban. This time, the snowmobile industry may be better at drumming up support, but ordinary citizens still can make themselves heard.
Area leaders are concerned the ban will hurt the local economy, especially that of West Yellowstone, Mont., a major entry point for snowmobilers. But the new study says that any of the alternatives will produce less than a 1 percent decline in jobs and business dollars.
The Interior Department ordered the new study as part of its friendly settlement of a lawsuit brought by snowmobile manufacturers and the states of Montana and Wyoming to overturn the ban, which was instituted by the Clinton administration. The ban was approved in November 2000 after more than a decade of study of the harm done by snowmobile pollution and noise on the park environment.
Disruptive: Snowmobile makers insist that their new four-stroke engines are quieter and less polluting than the old models. That's true. But even the new machines disrupt wildlife and threaten public safety and the enjoyment of other park visitors.
The new study offers four alternatives: Retain the ban beginning in 2003-04; delay the ban until 2004-05; impose a daily cap on snowmobiles and phase in new noise and air quality standards; permit only guided touring on machines driven by Park Service personnel.
The logical choice is to stick with the ban the Park Service has planned.
The Park Service has started tours to Old Faithful, the most popular snowmobile destination, by snow coach, although the coaches themselves are reported to be pretty noisy. The service, with Congress' help, should develop quieter coaches and expand the fleet to handle the demand for those who truly want to visit Yellowstone in winter. These include cross-country skiers and snowshoers hoping not to be chased from their trails and out of their solitude by a snarling snow machine.
EYES ON THE SPIES
Christian Science Monitor: Even as the U.S. wages war on terrorism, Congress plans to hold hearings on why the intelligence agencies failed to detect recent terrorist attacks like Sept. 11.
This delicate task of probing the agencies now conducting war is, using Plutarch's words, "like watermen, who look astern while they row the boat ahead."
Looking back for the purpose of self-correction can help serve the war. But looking back for the sake of scoring political points will serve no purpose.
Members of the joint Senate-House committee should live up to a statement by House Intelligence Committee chair Porter Goss, R-Fla., that the panel be "forward looking" without whitewashing the intelligence community's fence at the same time.
Obtaining full cooperation from those used to keeping secrets by those who have a reputation of being not so good at keeping them won't be easy. A former inspector general of the Central Intelligence Agency, L. Britt Snider, will oversee the committee's staff of investigators. His work will be carefully watched by panel members. If it falters, Congress should consider setting up an independent board of inquiry, such as those established to delve into other major national tragedies -- Pearl Harbor, the Challenger space-shuttle disaster, and the Kennedy assassination.
Still, there are some dos and don'ts the committee should follow:
UWithout naming names and pointing fingers, members should look into the role that old-fashioned spying -- infiltrating enemy groups -- might have played to prevent Sept. 11 and other terrorist attacks.
UThe panel also must examine whether so much money being spent on intelligence-gathering (some $30 billion a year) really is directed at operations like the Sept. 11 attacks, which cost an estimated $150,000.
UThe panel should explore how agencies like the CIA could go so long without adequate foreign language ability and cultural diversity, weaknesses that probably had a negative effect on detecting planned attacks.
UThe panel should also look at the roles played by the White House (both Clinton and Bush), the Justice Department, and Congress itself in coordinating or influencing the intelligence agencies. A closer look at creating greater cooperation between the domestic-focused FBI and the international CIA must be conducted.