winter-use plan for Yellowstone National Park redefines over-snow entries into
the park under a system that stands to increase the number of over-snow
vehicles into the park beyond the total that has been permitted in past
expected to be formally released in the coming days, calls for the park to
"manage oversnow vehicles by their overall impacts to air quality,
soundscapes, wildlife, and visitors, rather than focusing solely on the number
of snowmobiles and snowcoaches allowed in the park each day. The park would
allow up to 110 'transportation events' a day, initially defined as either one
snowcoach or, on average, a group of seven snowmobiles (maximum group size
would be capped at 10). No more than 50 transportation events a day would be
allocated for groups of snowmobiles."
formula, if 50 "transportation events a day" were
allocated for snowmobile groups, and those groups averaged seven machines, then
350 snowmobiles would be allowed into the park on one day. With another 60
"transportation events" allocated for snowcoaches, that would mean
daily over-snow entries could reach 410.
temporary winter-use plan regulations in use the past two winters, a maximum
318 snowmobiles and 78 snowcoaches a day were allowed into the park.
the preferred alternative in the draft plan would allow some non-commercially
guided trips into the park -- one per day through four of the park's entrances
with a maximum five snowmobiles in each party -- and allow Sylvan Pass to
continue to be groomed for over-snow travel.
officials on Friday initially posted on the internet this draft winter-use
environmental impact statement, which outlines the preferred approach the Park
Service wants to take. However, those documents were taken down later in the
day due to some questions raised in Washington.
they were removed, the Yellowstone Gate blog managed to grab the documents and
posted them on its site.
those documents, the preferred alternative potentially could allow 480
snowmobiles into the park on any one day. However, the documents continue,
"this level of use would not occur every day, because commercially-guided
group sizes must average 7 over the season, and noncommercially guided groups
could not exceed a group size of 5."
officials had hoped to have the winter-use plan in effect for last winter, but
in September Superintendent Dan Wenk said more questions needed to be resolved
before he would be satisfied with a plan to protect the park's resources yet
allow for over-snow visitation.
For more than
a decade the debate over how winter in Yellowstone should be enjoyed has
dragged on. The Park Service has gone back and forth with the political winds,
calling back in 2000 for recreational snowmobile use to be phased out
completely only to see the Bush administration drop that decision in favor of
continued snowmobile use.
waged by those who want continued snowmobile use and those who believe
Yellowstone would be healthier without snowmobiles have prolonged the debate
and led to a fistful of environmental studies -- environmental assessments as
well as more complex and detailed environmental impact statements.
winter-use proposal contains three other alternatives. The "no action”
alternative would end all public snowmobile and snowcoach travel in the park.
Alternative 2 would allow for winter oversnow access by snowmobile and
snowcoach at the same levels as permitted in recent years under a series of
temporary rules. Alternative 3 would phase-out snowmobiles and provide for an
increased number of BAT snowcoaches. This alternative would close Sylvan Pass
in the winter.
Under each of
the alternatives there would be a two-year transition period before the
approved approach took effect.
Park staff members will host a series of open
houses during the public review and comment period: