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Target: High Impact Polluters PDF Print E-mail
Rock the Earth environmental non-profitTarget: High Impact Polluters
Snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks cause air pollution and negatively impact both wildlife and visitors to the Parks. We continue to argue to the National Park Service against the use of these damaging and harmful vehicles, and advocate for the immediate elimination of recreational snowmobile use within the park's boundaries.
Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks Winter Use Plan Concerning Snowmobiles

Issue:
Whether recreational snowmobile usage should be permanently banned from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway (hereinafter, the "Park Units").

Background:
Prior to 2000, approximately 80,000 recreational snowmobiles were used by visitors to the Park Units, resulting in air and water quality issues, disturbance to wildlife, and negatively impacting a significant number of visitors who wished to explore the majesty of a few of the finest natural places in this country in peace and solitude. In 2000, the National Park Service ("NPS"), after years of study, environmental and economic assessments and hundreds of thousands of public comments, banned the use of snowmobiles in the Park Units by the winter of 2003-2004. Subsequent to this decision, the snowmobile industry sued the Park Service, demanding that they review new information on reductions to snowmobile air emissions and sound output as well as any negative financial repercussions from such a ban on the communities outlying the Park Units. In settlement of this lawsuit, the NPS initiated a Supplemental Environmental Impact Study ("SEIS") to consider these limited issues. On May 28, 2002, RtE filed comments to the draft SEIS, objecting to the use of snowmobiles in the Park Units on legal and technical grounds and concluding that nothing in the new information submitted by the snowmobile industry warranted a reversal by the Park Service.

Despite receiving over 350,000 comments supporting the ban, the NPS issued a new Record of Decision, overturning the ban and then proceeded to undertake a Rulemaking to implement the recommendations in the Record of Decision. On October 13, 2003, RtE filed detailed comments in opposition to the proposed regulations.

On December 11, 2003, the NPS issued a final regulation that implemented the new Record of Decision, despite overwhelming opposition to the proposed regulation expressed during the public comment period. The final regulation allowed up to 1,140 snowmobiles in the Park Units each day.

In 2007, after conflicting lawsuits, the Park Service issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision supporting a new, permanent Winter Use Plan for the Parks that would allow up to 750 snowmobiles a day into Yellowstone National Park.  Rock the Earth filed opposition comments to this new Final Plan.  Environmental groups sued the Park Service over the plan and in September of 2008, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision invalidating the 2007 Plan.  The Park Service quickly issued an Environmental Assessment and new proposed regulations, reducing the number of snowmobiles, but, nonetheless failing to address the District Court's issues.  

RtE Position:
Our position is that snowmobiles should be banned from the Park Units. Not only do snowmobiles devastate the natural environment of these sacred places, but the emissions and discharges from snowmobiles threaten both air and water quality. Further, NPS mandates restrict uses that impair or interfere with the atmosphere of peace and tranquility of the natural soundscapes maintained in wilderness. The use of snowmobiles in the Park Units violates federal law, regulations and NPS mandates and guidance.

Update:

In response to the conflicting federal court decisions,  in the spring of 2010, the National Park Service announced that it was undertaking another Environmental Impact Study to develop a new, permanent Winter Use Plan for the Parks.  Pursuant to that process, the NPS opened a Scoping process in the spring of 2010, the comments to which will be utilized to develop the areas of study within the EIS as well as the options to be considered.  Rock the Earth filed comments to the NPS regarding the Scoping process on March 30, 2010.

NPS has issued a new Draft EIS for the Parks.  The DEIS contains seven Alternatives ranging from intense snowmobile use (up to 720 machines a day) to an eventual phase-out of snowmobiles altogether. Alternative 5 is the only Alternative (besides the No Action Alternative) that would eliminate snowmobile use in Yellowstone National Park, however, this would happen over time. Under this Alternative the NPS is proposing a phase-out of snowmobiles by the 2014/2015 season and increase the use of snowcoaches that would be required to use the best available technology to lessen their impact on the winter environment.

The National Park Service is currently reviewing comments on alternatives for a long-term management plan for winter recreational uses, namely snowmobiles, in Yellowstone National Park.  The National Park Services is in the process of preparing a Supplemental Winter Use Plan to the Final Environmental Impact Statement it issued late last year, and requested public comments to the various alternatives. The “preferred alternative” (alternative 4 in this Winter Use Plan) would permit the National Park Service to use snowmobiles within the Yellowstone.

In March, Rock the Earth submitted a formal contact letter to the National Park Service opposing the preferred alternative’s extensive snowmobile use and advocating for the use of snowcoaches, which studies have deemed the “least impacting” means of visiting the Park during the winter months. Rock the Earth firmly believes that snowmobile use is not compatible with the scenic, aesthetic and wildlife values of Yellowstone National Park, our nation’s first National Park.  We expect that the Park Service will make a decision regarding the selected alternative later this year.


You can help protect Yellowstone’s wildlife and restore the park's unique winter quiet and pristine air quality. Please write and submit your comments to the National Park Service.

Yellowstone National Park

Winter Use SEIS
PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

You may also send your comments electronically by visiting
http://parkplanning.nps.gov/yell .
Click on “Open for Comment,” then,
Click on “Winter Use Plan/EIS,” and finally,
Click on “Comment on Document.”

Some Points To Make:

  • Eliminate snowmobiles from Yellowstone National Park. After years of study, the NPS determined that snowmobile use was having adverse environmental impacts. Ask the NPS to eliminate snowmobile use in the Park and transition to a park-friendly accessible snowcoach transportation system. 
  • Air and water quality. Snowmobile emissions cause major negative impacts to visitor and employee health, visibility, natural resources, and aesthetic and wilderness values. Ask the NPS to eliminate snowmobile use in the Park and transition to a park-friendly accessible snowcoach transportation system.
  • Excessive noise pollution. The NPS’ own management policies support a “natural ambient sound level” that “…exists in the absence of human-cause noise.” Ask the NPS to eliminate snowmobile use in the Park and transition to a park-friendly accessible snowcoach transportation system.
  • Wildlife impacts. Ungulates such as bison using groomed routes are particularly at risk, with disturbance and harassment occurring when such animals are particularly challenged for survival. Ask the NPS to eliminate snowmobile use in the Park and transition to a park-friendly accessible snowcoach transportation system.

Links:

RtE Snowmobile Letter 6-5-2013

 Rock the Earth June 5, 2013 Comment Letter to the National Park Service regarding the Proposed Rule to Implement a New Winter Use Plan for Yellowstone National Park.

RtE Snowmobile Letter 3-7-2012

Rock the Earth March 7, 2012 Comment Letter to the National Park Service regarding the Notice of Intent to Prepare Supplemental Environmental
Impact Statement for the Winter Use Plan for Yellowstone National Park

RtE-Snowmobile Letter 7-15-11
Rock the Earth July 15, 2011 Comment Letter to the National Park Service regarding the 2011 Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Yellowstone National Park.

2011 DEIS  

RtE-Snowmobile Letter 3-30-2010
Rock the Earth March 30, 2010 Comment Letter to the National Park Service regarding the Scoping of a new Winter Use Plan for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.
RtE-Snowmobile Letter 9-4-2009
Rock the Earth September 4, 2009 Comment Letter to the National Park Service regarding the 2009 Winter Use Regulations for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.
 
RtE-Snowmobile Letter 11-20-2008
Rock the Earth November 20, 2008 Comment Letter to the National Park Service regarding the 2008 Winter Use Regulations for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.

RtE-Snowmobile Letter 1-8-2008

Rock the Earth January 8, 2008 Comment Letter to the National Park Service regarding the 2007 Winter Use Regulations for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.

RtE-Snowmobile Letter 5-16-2007
Rock the Earth May 16, 2007 Comment Letter to the National Park Service regarding the 2007 Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.

RtE-Snowmobile Letter 10-2004.pdf
Rock the Earth October 6, 2004 Comment Letter to the National Park Service regarding the Proposed Special Regulations Amending 36 CFR Part 7 (relating to Special Regulations, Areas of the National Park System) for the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.

RtE-SnowmobileLetter.doc
Rock the Earth October 13, 2003 Comment Letter to the National Park Service regarding the Proposed Special Regulations Amending 36 CFR Part 7 (relating to Special Regulations, Areas of the National Park System) for the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.

RtE-WinterUseLetter.doc
Rock the Earth May 28, 2002 Comment Letter to the National Park Service regarding the the Winter Use Plans, Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement ("SEIS") for the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.

RtE-National Park-Winter Use Fact Sheet (PDF)
National Park-Winter Use Fact Sheet prepared by Rock the Earth

Yellowstone NP (pdf)
Grand Teton NP and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway (pdf)
February 11, 2004 Department of Interior Temporary Regulations.

http://www.nps.gov/yell/technical/planning/winteruse/plan/finalrule.pdf
December 11, 2003, Regulation Implementing the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

http://www.planning.nps.gov/document/yellrodwinteruse.pdf
2000 Winter Use Plan, Record of Decision, banning snowmobiles from the Park Units.

http://www.nps.gov/yell/planvisit/orientation/index.htm
Yellowstone Interactive Map

http://www.greateryellowstone.org/
Greater Yellowstone Coalition
 
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