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Winter Use Planning in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks April 2004 Update for Montana Governor’s Conference on Tourism From February 11, 2004, to the end of the winter season Yellowstone National Park operated under a Superintendent’s Order that called for: 780 snowmobiles per day

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Winter Use Planning in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

April 2004 Update for Montana Governor’s Conference on Tourism

from february 11 2004 to the end of the winter season
From February 11, 2004,to the end of the winter season
  • Yellowstone National Park operated under a Superintendent’s Order that called for:
    • 780 snowmobiles per day
      • 400 snowmobiles at the West Entrance.
      • 220 snowmobiles at the South Entrance
      • 100 snowmobiles at the East Entrance
      • 60 snowmobiles at the North Entrance
    • All commercially guided
    • 493 Non-Best Available Technology
    • 287 Best Available Technology snowmobiles
from december 17 2003 to february 10 2004
From December 17, 2003 to February 10, 2004,
  • Yellowstone operated under a Court Order that required:
    • 493 snowmobiles per day in Yellowstone
      • 278 snowmobiles at the West Entrance.
      • 90 snowmobiles at the South Entrance
      • 65 snowmobiles at the East Entrance
      • 60 snowmobiles at the North Entrance
    • All visitors must travel with commercial guides
    • No requirements for BAT
how did we get here
How Did We Get Here?
  • A December 16, 2003 court order required that the NPS begin implementing the decision to phase-out recreational snowmobiling by the winter of 2004-2005.
  • A February 10, 2004 Court Order temporarily restrained the NPS from phasing out snowmobiles and directed that a temporary rule be implemented for winter use that would be fair and equitable to all parties.
history of winter use
History of Winter Use
  • 1990: First Winter Use Plan and Environmental Assessment completed
  • 1993: Winter Visitor Use Management assessment process begins (NPS - USFS evaluation of the GYA)
  • 1997: The Fund for Animals files lawsuit
  • 1999: In January, The Bluewater Network petitions the NPS to ban snowmobile use nationwide
  • 1998-2000: Winter Use Plan and EIS prepared
history continued
History, Continued
  • In November 2000 the National Park Service signed a record of decision that eliminated recreational use of snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton as of the Winter 2003-2004.
  • On January 22, 2001, the National Park Service published final regulations implementing the snowmobile ban.
history continued10
History, Continued
  • In December 2000, ISMA (and others) filed suit on the decision (and amended the suit in February 2001).
  • In June 2001, the ISMA suit was settled and a Supplemental EIS was to be prepared. The SEIS was to allow for more public opinion and look at new snowmobile technology.
  • On November 18, 2002, the NPS published a final rule delaying implementation of some elements of the January 2001 rule.
a new winter use decision
A New Winter Use Decision

On March 25, 2003, the NPS signed a record of decision to allow snowmobiles to be used in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks under strict limitations.

Under that decision, the following elements were critical for a sustainable winter use decision:

1. Requirements set for “Best Available Technology”

2. Daily limit on snowmobile use

3. Access by guided only

4. Implement adaptive management program

5. Develop new snowcoaches

6. Reasonable phase-in

7. Fiscal resources in place to effectively manage the winter use program

snowmobile best available technology
Snowmobile Best Available Technology
  • Cleanest & quietest commercially available
  • At least a 90% reduction in HC, 70% reduction in CO (as compared to a 2-stroke)
  • 73 dBA or less for sound
  • Approved models:
    • Polaris Frontier 4-strokes for 2002, 2003 and 2004
    • Arctic Cat T660 (4-strokes) for 2002, 2003 and 2004 (non-turbo)
    • Bombardier Ski-Doo Elite and Legend Sport GT V1000 with BAT upgrades for 2004
snowcoach bat
Snowcoach BAT
  • Required stock pollution control equipment be in place and not to have exceeded its useful life.
  • Sound requirement is 75 dBA
  • “Historic” Bombardiers initially exempted.

Note: Contracts allow for 72 coaches; only 29 of which are “historic” Bombardiers.

snowmobile entry limits
Snowmobile Entry Limits
  • Decision: 1140 per day maximum
    • West - 550
    • South - 250
    • North - 50
    • East - 100
    • CDST and Grassy Lake Road - 75 each
    • Jackson Lake - 40
  • Historic Average: 840 per day in Yellowstone and Grand Teton
  • Historic Average High Day: 1650 per day
guided access only 80 commercial 20 self
Guided Access Only80% Commercial/20% Self
  • Addressed concerns related to wildlife and safety
  • Allow private sector to manage reservations and guiding services, as well as assist with training
adaptive management implement monitor learn adjust
Adaptive Management: Implement - Monitor - Learn - Adjust
  • Allows managers flexibility to try various management scenarios
  • Ensures specific resource and visitor experience goals are met
  • Depends on comprehensive monitoring for success

Decisions rest on effective Adaptive Management Program

implementing adaptive management
Implementing Adaptive Management
  • The program called for an annual review with changes forecasted one to three winters out.
  • Most changes to be made at local level by Superintendents
  • More significant changes (BAT, entry limits, guiding) notice would be published in Federal Register and use 36 CFR 1.7(a) procedures.
current lawsuits
Current Lawsuits
  • The decision to allow snowmobiles was challenged by two different groups.
  • One group, the Fund for Animals, et al, believes road grooming is adversely impacting bison distribution and abundance.
  • They called for an end to all road grooming, except from the South Entrance to Old Faithful, where few bison are located.
current lawsuits21
Current Lawsuits
  • The second group, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, et al, believes snowmobiles are inconsistent with the NPS Organic Act and other laws, regulations, and policies.
  • They requested that the decision to allow snowmobiling be set aside and NPS return to a ban on snowmobiles (while allowing and promoting snowcoach access).
the washington dc district court s ruling
The Washington, DC, District Court’s Ruling
  • The March 2003 decision to allow managed snowmobile use was “arbitrary and capricious”
  • The SEIS did not fully analyze a “no grooming” alternative and did not adequately explain why grooming does or does not affect bison populations.
  • Vacated the SEIS and ordered the NPS to implement the decision to phase-out snowmobiles.
additional lawsuits
Additional Lawsuits
  • The State of Wyoming and the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association re-opened their lawsuits challenging the decision to phase-out snowmobiles.
  • Hearings for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction were held in late-January 2004 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The order was issued February 10 granting the injunction.
additional lawsuits24
Additional Lawsuits
  • The Fund for Animals requested a hearing in the Washington, D.C. District Court on NPS compliance with the December 16 order.
  • The hearing was March 9, and Judge Sullivan stayed the contempt proceedings, with a status briefing scheduled for April 14.
  • The State of Wyoming and ISMA have stated they will appeal Judge Sullivan’s decision to the Washington, DC, Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • The Department of Justice filed a notice of intent to appeal.
  • The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s request for a stay of the Wyoming District Court’s ruling.
what is happening now
What is Happening Now?
  • We are working closely with officials in the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Justice to respond to lawsuits and to navigate a course for the future of winter use in the three parks.
  • However, it would be unfair for everyone involved to speculate on what might happen in the future regarding current law suits.
what does the future hold
What Does the Future Hold?
  • Yellowstone National Park will be open next winter for visitors to enjoy
  • Yellowstone will continue working with our gateway communities, state tourism offices, and other partners to provide accurate information about winter activities and opportunities in the parks and surrounding areas.
  • Website: