March 29, 2002
The U.S. National Park Service released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement addressing winter use plans for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway which once again solicits public comment about snowmobile use in the parks.
This is the fifth time in less than 10 years that the U.S. government is requesting public comment on snowmobile use in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, according to the National Parks Conservation Association. The action is being taken, says the group, despite more than 80 percent of public comments on the 2000 management plan supporting a phase-out of snowmobile use. Yet another study of snowmobile use raises the possibility that snowmobiles will be permitted in the parks.
According to the NPS, the U.S. Department of the Interior agreed to conduct the draft SEIS under terms of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, the state of Wyoming and others asking that a November, 2000 record of decision be set aside. That decision eliminated both snowmobile and snowplane use from the parks by the winter of 2003-2004, and allowed for park access via an NPS-managed, mass-transit snowcoach system.
The draft EIS outlines four alternatives:
- 1a — Upholds the decision of November, 2000, which phases out snowmobiles in the three park units over three years, and provides for motorized access by snowcoach only beginning in 2003-2004.
- 1b — Delays the above implementation for one year.
- 2 — Maintains snowmobile use on all existing snow roads, but at a reduced level in three years from the West Entrance of Yellowstone and potentially increased levels from other entrances. This proposal also calls for newer snowmobile technology that reduces emissions and noise.
- 3 — Allows snowmobiles on major, but not all, snow roads, using new snowmobile technology, with reduced use in some areas.
To obtain a full copy of the supplemental draft EIS, go to http://www.nps.gov/grte/winteruse/intro.htm.
“The pro-snowmobile alternatives in this plan fail to give the parks the protection they deserve and that the public demands,” said Thomas C. Kiernan, president of NPCA. “The National Park Service needs to uphold the original plan for eliminating snowmobiles — despite heavy pressure from the industry to keep the parks open to these harmful machines.”
Public comments, which must include the name and postal address of the writer, will be accepted until May 29, 2002, and should be addressed to:
Winter Use Draft SEIS Comments
Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks
PO Box 352
Moose, WY 83012
Final action on snowmobile rules is expected to occur in November.
Published news articles have noted that pollution at the West Entrance to Yellowstone has been so bad due to snowmobiles that the NPS has had to pump fresh air into booths staffed by park rangers. Respirators were also provided to rangers this winter.
Additionally, an article by Jack Clinton for the Environment News Service detailed alleged trespassing by up to thousands of snowmobilers deep into Yellowstone National Park. Aerial photos taken by the NPS indicate parklands crisscrossed by snowmobile tracks.