State renews objections to Yellowstone plan
Asks Court for relief
by State of Wyoming
November 22, 2009
Governor Dave Freudenthal and the State of Wyoming are challenging a snowmobile-related rule the U.S. National Park Service has adopted for Yellowstone National Park this winter.
"Nothing has changed since the Park Service introduced this proposed winter use plan last month. This policy continues the Park Service’s unacceptable pattern of limiting public access to the public’s lands," Freudenthal said.
"This rule fails the eyeball test. The Park Service itself has determined a significantly higher number of snowmobiles can be allowed into the Park without harm, but yet they settle on 318 a day," he said.
"We all agree Yellowstone needs to be protected. But what the Park Service is proposing is incompatible with its own findings," the governor said.
In the 2009 Winter Use Rule, the Park Service writes, "Indeed, while some major effects have resulted from snowmobile or snowcoach use over the past five years – which included some days where snowmobile usage was nearly double the daily limit now adopted – the NPS has determined that none of the effects associated with that usage caused any impairment of park resources."
"The Park Service needs to balance its duty to protect Yellowstone against its obligation to help as much of the public enjoy the Park as possible. They have failed to do that when their own research shows no harm from 700 snowmobiles and then they set the limit to 318," Freudenthal said.
"Snowmobile traffic into Yellowstone is a major driver of tourism into the state during the winter. Wyoming deserves a compelling reason before the federal government does something to limit visitors to our state, especially in this challenging economic environment," he added.
The Wyoming Attorney General’s office has filed a request with the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, asking the Court to set aside the NPS interim rule and reinstate the 2004 temporary rule approved by the Court in 2004.
"I remain committed to working with the Park Service to show them more flexibility is required when determining how many snowmobiles and snowcoaches are allowed into Yellowstone each day," the governor said.
"A better solution than the inflexible ceiling the Park Service is proposing is a variable use rule," Freudenthal said.
The interim rule affects Yellowstone in the winter season, which opens Dec. 15. A separate but related final rule limits snowmobile traffic into Grand Teton National Park to 50 per day.
"A variable use rule will allow more visitors into the Park on days when more folks want to go to Yellowstone, particularly Christmas, New Year’s and Presidents Day," Freudenthal said.