If you decide on a burly winter trek through Yellowstone or Grand Teton next year, you might still hear the whir of snowmobiles—but the chances are much lower. After a federal judge struck down the National Park Service's plan to increase snowmobile usage in the parks, the Fed has capitulated and returned with a new plan that cuts snowmobile usage by 40 percent.
Now, instead of a proposed 605 snowmobiles per day in the two parks, the cap calls for no more than 318 per day in Yellowstone and another 50 in Grand Teton. If all goes well, the plan could be accepted by Dec. 15.
This, of course, does nothing to end the tit-for-tat arguments between conservationists and snowmachine proponents:
Jack Welch with the Blue Ribbon Coalition, a snowmobile advocacy group, said the proposed restrictions are too severe.
"People will be turned away and consequently it's not fair," he said. "318, no matter how it's divided up, is not going to be adequate to allow for people to visit their national parks."
Yellowstone winter use planner John Sacklin defended the new plan as "falling right within the range of use that we have seen. We believe the impacts will be no more than moderate based on our analysis and based on looking at monitoring results for the last four to five winters."
Thanks to our thorny legal system, the debate isn't over: The state of Wyoming and snowmobile advocates have already filed suit in a bid to increase the amount of snowmobiles allowed in parks. As soon as there's another reversal or game-changer, you'll hear about it right here in The daily Dirt.