ALERT: Temporary Winter Use Plans Environmental Assessment

SAWS Action Alert

Comments must be submitted by September 20, 2004

I assume that you all must be getting a little tired of the numerous studies and requests to submit comments to allow snowmobiling to continue within Yellowstone National Park (YNP). I certainly am. You may have even come to the conclusion that YNP is not worth fighting for anymore; go ahead and give it to the extreme environmentalists because the best riding is outside the park anyway. There is better riding to be had outside the park for the majority of western snowmobilers, but you would be doing a disservice to all riders by giving in and allowing snowmobiling to be eliminated from the park. This would put yet another win for the extreme green groups in the snowmobile closure column and encourage them to move on to riding areas in your backyard.

Do you really think they will go away, happy that they have won YNP, and allow continued riding in our national forests across America? The closure of YNP to snowmobilers will add fuel to the fire ÔÇô incensing environmentalists everywhere to begin fighting for closures in their own states.┬á The next area they target might be your favorite riding area.┬á

It is important to keep snowmobiling open in YNP if for no other reason than to avoid the precedence it would set that somehow, someway, snowmobiles are bad for the environment and bad for wildlife. Snowmobiling in YNP offers a great way for families, especially urban city families, to see the wonders of the park during one of itÔÇÖs most beautiful seasons. It also allows them the experiences of seeing how snowmobiling and nature can co-exist without harm or negative impacts on wildlife.

You may want to take the time to read the 264 pages of the temporary winter use plan; it is a real eye opener. For instance, do you know what the number one form of motorized transportation entering the park was in the winter of 2003-2004? If you guessed snowmobiles, you would be wrong. The answer is automobiles. Not snow-coaches, but wheeled automobiles coming through the north entrance of the park to visit Mammoth Hot Springs, cross-country ski nearby, or view wolves in the Lamar Valley. Have you ever heard this fact mentioned while winterized activity in the park is being criticized on national TV?

I hope now you know why you should care about snowmobiling being allowed to continue in YNP. Even if you never visit the park by snowmobile you should be aware of the negative impact the closure could have on your local riding areas.   I have read the temporary winter use plan and have summarized information regarding the latest Environmental Assessment (EA) and snowmobiling in YNP below.  I have also listed below, data that you may want to utilize in your own letters. 

First it should be noted that as the title suggests, this is just a temporary winter use plan for YNP. If not halted through a ruling by another judge, or through changes in the administration from the White House on down, then this winter use plan would extend through the winter of 2006-2007.

This plan contains 5 alternatives. I am not even going to discuss alternatives 1 thru 3, because they range from not allowing any snowmobiles at all, to allowing up to 540 snowmobiles per day in the park. The National Park ServiceÔÇÖs (NPS) preferred alternative is alternative 4. It allows up to 720 snowmobiles per day in Yellowstone and 140 in Grand Teton Nation Park (GTNP) and the Parkway combined. All of these snowmobiles must meet the Best Available Technology (BAT) and in the park you must travel with a commercial guide. IÔÇÖm assuming that you will hear some pro snowmobile groups jump on board the alternative 4 recommendation, and once again compromise for a reduction in the number of sleds allowed in the park. This alternative is certainly better than alternatives 1 -3, but SAWS is recommending that you support alternative 5.

Alternative 5 would allow up to 950 snowmobiles per day in YNP and 190 in GTNP and the Parkway combined. Commercial guides would be required for 80% of the daily visits.

You may find the following information useful for your comment letters: 

  • Snowmobiles are only allowed on 180 miles of the roads that are groomed for snowmobile trails in YNP. These groomed routes follow portions of the 232 miles of paved roads within the park.┬áThe road from the north entrance at Gardiner through Mammoth to the NE entrance near Cooke City / Silver Gate is plowed in the winter to support wheeled automobile traffic. These groomed roads represent less than 1% of the total 2.2 million acres that make up YNP.
  • Even without the presence of snowmobiles, the same roads groomed within the park for snowmobile use would still need to be groomed for snow-coach and cross-country ski use.
  • More than 8300 automobiles, motorcycles, pick-up trucks, busses, recreational vehicles and commercial trucks enter YNP on a daily basis between April 16th, and November 7th.
  • Snowmobiles do not put unreasonable stress on wildlife in the park. Studies have shown that wildlife is more stressed and moves further away from approaching humans on foot (cross-country skiing) than they do when approached by motorized vehicles (snowmobiles).
  • The economic impact to West Yellowstone if snowmobile numbers were reduced or eliminated would be devastating to local businesses. With all the confusion over whether snowmobiles were allowed in the park during the 2003-2004 winter, tax receipts in West Yellowstone were down more than 25% compared to the 2001-2002 winter.
  • The only alternative that shows any positive economic value to local businesses from historic numbers is alternative 5. Alternatives 1 thru 4 all show a negative economic impact.

Please write a short comment letter regarding this temporary winter use plan for YNP. Feel free to use any of the information above, but it is very important that at a minimum you write the first paragraph of your comment letter in your own words. This will prevent it from being considered a form letter, which carries much less weight than a personal letter will.

If you made it this far, I applaud you for taking the time to help preserve snowmobiling wherever it may be attacked.

Snowmobile Alliance of Western States

Permission is granted to use or print this alert as needed, as long as it is used in its entirety and Snowmobile Alliance of Western States is acknowledged as the source.

I have not been able to find an email address to submit comments for this winter use plan, but the link below will allow you to submit your comments from a NPS web site, or you can mail them the old fashion way, but please submit your comments either way before midnight September 20, 2004.

Management AssistantÔÇÖs Office,
Temporary Winter Use Plans EA,
National Park Service
P.O. Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190