On December 15, 2015, the main West and South gates will open to another season of snowmobile access to Yellowstone National Park. This access will be regulated by the “Yellowstone Winter Use” Final Regulation to implement the Record of Decision (ROD) which was approved in the fall of 2013.
According to the Park Service, the ROD provides a frame work for more effectively managed access for snowmobiles and snowcoaches in Yellowstone National Park while minimizing impacts on visitors, air and sound quality, and wildlife. The final regulation will guide management of winter use in the Park and will implement the preferred alternative in the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
Under the Record of Decision and Final Regulation during the 2015/2016 Winter Season the Park will permit up to 110 “transportation events” daily, initially defined as one snowcoach or a group of up to 10 snowmobiles, averaging 7 snowmobiles per group per season. Up to 50 transportation events each day may be groups of snowmobiles.
Management by transportation events is an impact-centric approach designed to minimize the impact of oversnow vehicles (OSVs) on air quality, soundscapes and wildlife rather than focusing solely on the number of vehicles allowed in the Park.
This new, practical approach to OSV management, “transportation events”, also provides greater flexibility for OSV commercial tour operators, rewards future OSV technological innovations and reduces OSV-caused environmental impacts all while making the Park cleaner and quieter than previously authorized and allowing for increases in visitation. Under the Final Regulations up to 500 snowmobiles could be allowed in the Park per day. This is a major victory for snowmobile access to Yellowstone.
Another important part of the Final Regulation is that four transportation events per day (one per gate) would be reserved for non-commercially guided snowmobile access and Sylvan Pass would continue to be operated in accordance with the Sylvan Pass Working Group Agreement. The non-commercially guided access will provide snowmobilers a chance to visit their Park without hiring a commercial guide. Visit www.recreation.gov search Yellowstone National Park and the “Non-Commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program” availability for reservations.
The BlueRibbon Coalition is proud of its important role in helping to develop the current management plan for Yellowstone Winter Use. For the most current information on the Yellowstone Winter Use Plan, visit our dedicated website at www.saveyellowstonepark.com