Yellowstone releases Winter Use Plan Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Six public meetings scheduled for June
by Yellowstone National Park
May 9, 2011
A new long-term plan designed to manage winter use and determine the type and extent of future snowmobile and snowcoach use in Yellowstone National Park has been released for public review and comment.
The Winter Use Plan Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) analyzes a wide range of alternatives that present different ways visitors could experience the park in winter while protecting the park’s natural resources and values.
The alternative preferred by the park and the National Park Service (NPS) takes a new approach by varying the maximum number of oversnow vehicles (OSV) allowed in the park for certain days and periods during the winter season. This "preferred alternative" would allow varying days of higher and lower numbers of snowmobiles and snowcoaches in the park so that visitors would have a greater variety of motorized and non-motorized experiences throughout the season. Some days could have as many as 330 snowmobiles and 80 snowcoaches in the park, while others could have as few as 110 snowmobiles and 30 snowcoaches. Under this alternative, if each day’s allocation were fully used, a daily average of 254 snowmobiles and 63 snowcoaches would be allowed during the 90-day winter season.
As in recent years, this alternative would continue to require that snowmobiles and snowcoaches be accompanied by commercial guides and on existing park roads groomed for oversnow use. Sylvan Pass and the East Entrance to the park would be managed with a combination of avalanche mitigation techniques to provide winter access in accordance with an agreement reached in 2008. A new OSV scheduling plan would require that all vehicles entering the park do so by 10:30 a.m. each day.
Use of "best available technology" (BAT) snowmobiles would continue. A new limit on nitrogen oxide emissions would be implemented. By the winter of 2014-2015, snowcoaches would be required to meet or exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2010 emission standards for new wheeled vehicles. Snowcoaches also would be required to meet a new ground-surface weight limit of 4.5 pounds per square inch to limit potential damage to park roads.
Additional details on the Draft EIS, an electronic copy, and a form for submitting public comments on the document electronically via the Internet are at the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/yell. Once there, click on the "Winter Use Plan" link. You can request a copy of the Draft EIS in compact disc or printed paper form and submit written, hard copy comments by mail to: National Park Service, Management Assistant’s Office, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190. Comments may be submitted in writing through the PEPC website, in person, or by mail. Comments will not be accepted over the phone, by fax, or email. No bulk comments will be accepted.
The document is now open for public review and comment. The comment period will close 60 days after the EPA publishes a "Notice of Availability" of the Draft EIS in the Federal Register. That date will be announced soon. A separate, proposed draft federal rule that would be used to implement the park’s preferred alternative, if chosen, will be released for its own separate 60-day public review and comment period soon.
The park will hold six public meetings: four local meetings in communities near the park and two national meetings. Evening public meetings are scheduled for June 1 in Jackson, WY, June 2 in Cody, WY, June 7 in West Yellowstone, MT, June 8 in Bozeman, MT, June 21 in the Denver, CO, and June 23 in Washington, DC. Further details with specifics on meeting locations will be released shortly. In addition, two public webinars (online "meetings") are scheduled for June 21 and June 22.
The National Park Service intends to have a final EIS, a Record of Decision, and a final rule guiding winter use in place before the start of the 2011-2012 winter season.