As predicted, after seven years of lawsuits, contradictory plans and court rulings, the National Park Service announced on Nov. 4 that it will continue to allow hundreds of snowmobiles per day into Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks for the next three winters (HCN, 11/8/04: Judge vaporizes Yellowstone snowmobile ban).
The new rules will allow 720
snowmobiles into Yellowstone and 140 into Grand Teton each day
— only slightly fewer than the number permitted in the late
1990s, when the Park Service originally decided to ban the
polluting machines. The snowmobiles must be newer models that are
quieter and cleaner-running than those in the past, and they must
travel in guided caravans.
Just days after the
announcement, the lawsuits began flying. On Nov. 10, the Wyoming
Lodging and Restaurant Association filed one in federal court in
Wyoming, saying its members want more traffic in the parks. The
Greater Yellowstone Coalition filed a motion Nov. 12 in federal
court in Washington, D.C., asking the Park Service to monitor the
snowmobiles’ impacts and reduce the numbers allowed if they
exceed pollution thresholds. The Fund for Animals and the Bluewater
Network filed a separate lawsuit in the same court, charging the
Park Service still fails to address the impacts of trail grooming.
"Trail grooming is changing the dynamics of the entire
ecosystem," by affecting the travel patterns of bison and other
wildlife, says Sean Smith, Bluewater Network public lands director
and a former Yellowstone ranger. Meanwhile, to ensure that the
parks stay open to snowmobiles this winter, Montana Sen. Conrad
Burns, R, tacked a rider onto the omnibus spending bill, signed by
the president Dec. 8: It prevents the Park Service from changing
the rules until next year.