|Snowmobile Impacts on Air Quality
Air Quality and Snow Chemistry at a Snowmobile
Staging Area in a Rocky Mountain Subalpine Forest
Summary: A pilot study will be conducted at a snowmobile
staging area to examine air quality at the site. Nitrogen oxides,
carbon monoxide, and particulate matter will be monitored. Weekend
and weekday data will be compared. Automated counters will be examined
as a method to quantify snowmobiles present at the site. Water chemistry
will be determined from snow samples collected under and away from
a snowmobile trail. Vegetation and soils will also be examined across
Introduction: This study will examine air and
snow water quality characteristics at the Medicine Bow National
Forest Green Rock Picnic Area, a winter closure point and turnaround
for Wyoming State Highway 130, 26 miles west of Laramie, Wyoming.
A winter trailhead and parking area is located here where snowmobiles
are unloaded, fueled, started, and warmed before excursions are
begun. Use of this site by snowmobilers is particularly high on
weekends, and use has increased over the past several years. It
is expected that snowmobile use may continue to increase in the
Snowy Range of Wyoming.
Objectives of the study are: 1) To monitor the meteorology, nitrogen
oxides, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter in ambient air at
a snowmobile staging area. 2) To examine methods to determine snowmobile
counts. 3) To examine variability in snow chemistry in and near
a snowmobile trail. 4) To compare vegetation and soil characteristics
under and away from a snowmobile trail.
Methods: Standard meteorological instrumentation
and air quality monitors will be installed in a small building near
the Green Rock Picnic Area trailhead at the winter closure of Wyoming
State Highway 130. Meteorological instruments will measure wind
speed, wind direction, temperature, and relative humidity. Air quality
monitors will measure nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and particulate
matter. Air quality data will be compared for weekend and weekday
differences. Post-winter measurements will continue after snowmelt
to determine weekday and weekend differences without the presence
Automatic infrared and/or video counters will be tested to detect
and count snowmobile passage. Automated counters will be checked
intermittently by comparing with hand counts by volunteers.
Snow samples will be collected at a site along a snowmobile trail
for chemical analysis. The samples will be weighed to determine
snow water equivalent and transferred to the lab for chemical analysis.
Snow samples will be collected during late January and during late
April to early May, to capture the early and late season snowpack.
Vegetation will be examined at the end of the melt season. Soil
water chemistry and soil density will also be measured at each site.
A paired sample test will be used to compare vegetation and soil
characteristics between trail and non-trail sites.
After the initial year of preliminary data from this pilot study,
the study could be expanded to include data from an additional site
with low snowmobile use. This will allow comparison of low use sites
with the high use site, information not available from this initial
study. The results of this pilot study will relate only to the Green
Rock Picnic Area site, with no extrapolation possible regarding
air quality at other sites.
Participants in the study:
USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins,
USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region, Air Resources Division,
USDA Forest Service, Medicine Bow/Routt National Forests, Laramie,
US DOI, Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, Fort Collins,
US DOI, Bureau of Land Management, Cheyenne, WY
US Environmental Protection Agency, Region VIII, Denver, CO
University of Wyoming, Department of Renewable Resources, Laramie,
Wyoming Department of State Parks, Snowmobile Trails Program, Cheyenne,
Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Air Quality Division,
Wyoming State Snowmobile Association
For further information contact:
Dr. Robert Musselman
USDA Forest Service
Rocky Mountain Research Station
240 West Prospect Road
Fort Collins, CO 80526