National Park Service Press Release

For Immediate Release:
David Barna, (202) 208-6843
Elaine Sevy, (202) 208-6844

National Park Service Limits Personal Watercraft Use

Final Rule Goes into Effect April 20, 2000

National Park Service Director Robert Stanton today announced that a final rule for managing Personal Watercraft (PWC) use in areas of the National Park System goes into effect April 20, 2000. The rule was published in the Federal Register today, March 21, 2000.

"The National Park Service is charged with protecting this Nation's natural and cultural heritage while providing for the public's enjoyment of the places entrusted to our care," said Stanton. "Because of this mandate, we adopted a prudent approach to managing personal watercraft that allows their use, yet protects park values, sensitive natural areas, and plants and animals, and reduces conflicts with park visitors who seek solitude and traditional recreational activities such as canoeing and hiking."

The final rule prohibits PWC use in national park areas unless the Service determines that this type of water-based recreational activity is appropriate for a specific park based on the legislation establishing that area, the park's resources and values, other visitor uses of the area, and overall management objectives.

The rule also recognizes that PWC use may be appropriate in portions of certain areas such as Lake Mead (AZ/NV) and Glen Canyon (AZ/UT) National Recreation Areas (NRAs), where Congress directed the Service to manage an active motorized water-based recreation program on large man-made lakes.

The rule allows two methods of authorizing PWC use. The first method, referred to as Park Designated PWC use, is available for a small group of National Park Service areas, where authorization might be appropriately and successfully accomplished through a Park Superintendent's Compendium, a locally based procedure for implementing restrictions. The second method, Special Regulation rulemaking through the Federal Register, is available for other park areas where authorization of PWC use may be deemed appropriate.

The first, or locally-based, method may allow PWC use to continue in all or part of the following NPS units identified in the final rule: 10 NRAs, including Amistad (TX), Bighorn Canyon (MT), Chickasaw (OK), Curecanti (CO), Gateway (NY), Glen Canyon (AZ/UT), Lake Mead (AZ/NV), Lake Meredith (TX), Lake Roosevelt (WA), Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity (CA).

A review of the legislation establishing these 10 Park Designated areas shows that water-related recreation was a primary purpose for these parks and that they are characterized by substantial motorized boating use. Nine of the park areas contain man-made lakes created by the construction of dams, and one park area has open ocean and bay waters. Superintendents will be able to regulate PWC use within these parks by area closures, public use limits, and other restrictions.

The second method for authorizing PWC use in Park Service areas, Special Regulation rulemaking through the Federal Register, provides nationwide notice and opportunity to comment on any proposal to authorize PWC use in an area of the National Park System. The Service recognizes that this process can be time-consuming. Therefore, the rule establishes a 2-year "grace period" following final rule publication to provide certain listed park areas, where PWC use is presently occurring, sufficient time to develop and finalize special regulations as appropriate.

During this 2-year grace period, the superintendents of the following park units would be able to authorize, manage and restrict (through zoning, hour limits, etc) PWC use: Assateague (MD/VA), Cape Cod (MA), Cape Lookout (NC), Cumberland Island (GA), Fire Island (NY), Gulf Islands (FL/MS), and Padre Island (TX) National Seashores; Indiana Dunes (IN) and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshores (MI); Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (PA/NJ); and Big Thicket National Preserve (TX).

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register for public comment on September 15, 1998 (63 FR 49312) with the comment period lasting until November 16, 1998. The Service received more than 20,000 timely written responses during the comment period.

PWC use has been controversial in many places throughout the country. The Service's concerns, coupled with an analysis of the comments received, led the agency to conclude that PWC use is inappropriate in most areas of the National Park System, and appropriate in only a small number of areas.

Prior to release of the proposed rule, a dramatic increase in PWC use had been observed in 32 of the 87 units of the National Park System that allow motorized boating.

PWC use is specifically prohibited at Yellowstone (WY, MT, ID) and Everglades (FL) National Parks; Buffalo National River (AR) and Ozark National Scenic Riverways (MO) through special regulations and other management restrictions issued prior to this rulemaking process.

A number of areas closed to PWC use as a result of the current rulemaking process. These include: Biscayne (FL), Isle Roya