Future of Commercially Guided and Non-Commercially Guide Snowmobile Access maybe effected – The Devil in the Details
By Jack Welch
Special Projects Consultant
On December 20, 2016, I received notice of the availability of the Final Yellowstone Winter Use Adaptive Management Plan (AMP). This AMP is the final step required by the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for Yellowstone Winter Use which was published August 22, 2013, and the final Rule for Winter Use developed to implement that SEIS Selected Alternative. To develop the AMP, the National Park Service (NPS) began a process to collaborate with individual stakeholders to develop this adaptive management and monitoring plan for Yellowstone winter use in November of 2013. It was from the work of these stakeholder working groups, including BlueRibbon members, that a draft AMP was released in May of 2015. After a 60-day comment period on the draft a Final AMP was developed and just released.
There are three central objectives for the final AMP:
1. To evaluate the impacts of Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) use and help managers implement actions that keep impacts within the range predicted under the Selected Alternative.
2. To gather additional data regarding the comparability of impacts from a group of snowmobiles versus a snowcoach.
3. To reduce impacts on park resources after implementation of the Selected Alternative, by gathering additional data regarding the overall social and ecological impacts of winter use and using those data to guide future management decisions.
The working groups that provided input into the development of the final AMP include Wildlife, Soundscapes & Acoustic Resources, Air Quality, Human Dimensions, Operation and Technology and Non-Commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program.
For the AMP process Working Groups were formed around each impact topic listed above. These groups were comprised of stakeholders and interested members of the public, with a Park Service staff member as a working group leader. The purpose of these Working Groups was not to reach a consensus or to agree on a course of action, but for individual members of each Working Group to provide suggestions, knowledge, technical expertise, and general comments about monitoring objectives and potential mitigation measures.
One statement from the final AMP in the non-commercially guided chapter 7 is that “if non-commercially guided groups are found to be more impactful than commercial groups, possible mitigation measures include increased education for program participants, reduced number of non-commercially guided groups, or modification of the program by the Superintendent.” In other words
the program could be cancelled. The same is true for the Commercially Guided snowmobile program. Monitoring of Wildlife, Soundscapes & Acoustic Resources and Air Quality along with the Human Dimensions will play an important role in the future of snowmobile access to Yellowstone.
It is important to note the AMP, as outlined in this plan, is intended to be flexible in that as new information is collected and evaluated, the NPS and the public will continually re-examine the goals of the program, monitoring strategies, and management actions. The NPS will keep the public updated on new information and any changes to monitoring strategies or winter use management through the YNP website, monitoring reports, and public meetings as needed.
Please note it will take time for a complete review of all the details of the AMP and how the future of snowmobile access to Yellowstone will be effected. Please take time to review the AMP at Park Service website of http://parkplanning.nps.gov/wuamplan
And for more information on the Yellowstone Winter Use issue visit our dedicated website of www.saveyellowstonepark.com