WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bighorn National Recreation Area in Montana and Wyoming reopened to personal watercraft use Wednesday, according to a ruling published in the Federal Register.
The process to evaluate PWC use at Bighorn Canyon concluded after nearly three years, in time for the summer boating season, the Personal Watercraft Industry Association reported in a recent statement.
In 2002, a court settlement required the National Park Service to restrict PWC in 21 park units pending the results of scientific studies regarding the vessels’ impact. Seven units have completed the studies and now allow PWC; six other units are in the final stages of the rulemaking process to re-allow the vessels.
The environmental assessment study at Bighorn Canyon concluded that PWC present “no significant impact,” and are an appropriate boating activity for the National Recreation Area. PWC use in the park will be accompanied with reasonable regulations, such as no-use zones on the southern shoreline, vessel inspections and user education programs, stated PWIA.
“Today another national park that has put personal watercraft to the test has reaffirmed that these boats are among the cleanest and quietest on the water,” said Maureen Healey, PWIA executive director. “The ban in 2000 was unreasonable because scientific studies consistently show modern PWC have no unique impact that justifies singling them out for discriminatory bans.”
PWC use will be allowed on most of the 60-mile long, 12,700 acre Bighorn Lake with the exception of areas south of South Narrows.
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