Judge says national parks don't need jet ski noise, pollution

— A federal judge has ordered the National Park Service to reconsider it's decisions allowing unlimited jet ski use in two national parks.

In an 88-page decision, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said the Park Service environmental analysis at both the Gulf Island National Seashore in Florida and Mississippi and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan was faulty.

"Why has NPS issued rules allowing jet ski use in two beautiful and pristine national parks, acknowledging that such use will impact, to varying degrees, water quality, air quality, wildlife, animal habitats, soundscapes, visitor use and safety, etc., when the users of jet skis are perfectly free to enjoy their vehicles in other, equally accessible areas, without threatening the serenity, the tranquility — indeed, the majesty — of these two national treasures," Kessler wrote in Thursday's ruling.

The ruling is the result of a suit filed by several environmental agencies and others. In 2000, the Park Service banned jet skis, but allowed individual parks to reintroduce them based on park-specific findings that they would not impair park resources.

"The Park Service will have to change their rules allowing the use of jet skis in these parks or justify why they don't to the judge," said Howard Crystal, the plaintiffs' lead attorney. "And the original decisions did not do that."

Maureen Healey, executive director of the Personal Watercraft Industry Association, which joined the Park Service in the suit, said they were reviewing the judge's decision and would check with the National Park Service about their next move.

"Today's personal watercraft are among the most environmentally friendly boats on the water, having reduced emissions by up to 90 percent in the last decade," Healey said in a statement. "Every recent, scientific and objective analysis of personal watercraft has concluded that PWC should not be restricted where other types of boating is allowed."

She pointed out that the use of jet skis currently remained open at these parks.

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