By Jack Welch
Special Projects Consultant
As you read this, fall is in the air, meaning it is time for an update on the 2010-11 winter season in Yellowstone National Park. Perhaps contrary to your initial impression, the news is good. On Dec. 15, 2010 the gates are scheduled to open to another season of snowmobile access to Yellowstone National Park.
This access is authorized by the Winter Use Temporary Plan Environmental Assessment and associated rule finalized in Fall, 2009. The Park operated under this rule for the 2009-10 season and will operate under the same plan for the 2010-11 winter season.
The regulation is intended to provide visitors, area businesses and park employees with a plan they can count on for 2010-11 season. This temporary rule is the same as last season and will allow the NPS time to develop and complete a new long-term plan for winter use in Yellowstone National Park that will take effect for the 2011-12 season.
Please check out the draft alternatives and schedule to complete this long term Winter Use Plan at www.saveyellowstonepark.com.
Under the temporary rule, motorized oversnow access is authorized to continue this winter. Up to 318 commercially-guided, Best Available Technology (BAT) snowmobiles and up to 78 snowcoaches will be allowed per day in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone's East Entrance and Sylvan Pass will be open for motorized and non-motorized oversnow travel, subject to weather and safety constraints. Trail and off-road use of snowmobiles and snowcoaches have always been and will continue to be prohibited.
Another special rule has been published that addresses snowmobile access in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, including access along Grassy Lake Road from Flagg Ranch to the national forest and on Jackson Lake for licensed anglers.
In closing, I understand that the fight over Yellowstone has been a long, contentious and complicated battle. We are now in the 12th year of our combined efforts to maintain snowmobile access to Yellowstone National Park. Please remember the fact that Yellowstone remains open to snowmobiles represents one of the most profound victories over the extreme environmental movement in our lifetime. Enjoy the victory and make your plans to come and enjoy Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks this winter on a snowmobile.