Yellowstone and Grand Teton exploring winter options
Snowmobile and Snowcoach recreation still in question for this winter
by National Park Service
September 22, 2008
Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks continue to explore ways the parks might be open to motorized oversnow travel this winter, in light of a court order issued earlier this week.
On September 15, 2008, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an opinion that rejected the latest Winter Use Plan, Record of Decision and the associated rule.
That plan rejected by the court would have allowed up to 540 commercially guided; cleaner and quieter snowmobiles and 83 snowcoaches a day to enter Yellowstone this winter, beginning December 15, 2008. In Grand Teton, it would have allowed 40 unguided, BAT snowmobiles a day on Jackson Lake to facilitate ice fishing by those possessing appropriate fishing gear and a valid State of Wyoming fishing license, and would have allowed 25 snowmobiles a day to travel on the Grassy Lake Road.
A 2004 rule originally implemented to support a temporary three year winter use plan remains valid and is the rule which currently governs oversnow motorized travel in the parks. Under that rule, the authority to operate snowmobiles and snowcoaches in the parks expired at the end of the 2006-2007 winter season. Unless some change occurs, neither snowmobiles nor snowcoaches will be allowed in Yellowstone or Grand Teton this winter.
The discretionary authority of the superintendents of the parks is limited to actions in accordance with regulations. Therefore, they cannot simply issue an order to open the parks to snowmobile or snowcoach travel this winter.
Park mangers and staff members, in consultation with attorneys at the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of the Interior, are looking at a wide range of options which might provide for motorized oversnow access this winter. They recognize the normal start of winter season is now less than 90 days away.
While the parks are examining options, the outcome of another legal challenge to the latest Winter Use Plan is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming.
Portions of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are open to wheeled vehicle access all year, offering abundant opportunities to enjoy winter activities including wildlife viewing, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.