An important meeting will be held this week in Idaho Falls and the topic will be winter recreation in Yellowstone National Park.
As many of you might know the Yellowstone Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the new Yellowstone National Park (YNP) Long-term Winter Use Plan is in the works. The draft was released May 5. A PDF of the document is attached.
In order to assist with a review of the document early in the public review period, the National Park Service is convening a Cooperating Agency meeting in Idaho Falls, ID, on Thursday, May 12, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. MDT at the Shilo Inn Suites Hotel, 780 Lindsay Boulevard. For directions please click this link: http://goo.gl/maps/m1b9
Following is an overview of what was discussed recently during a Yellowstone National Park Task Force conference call. It was the first meeting of the Yellowstone Task Force. It is made up of selected snowmobile leaders and other interested parties. Jack Welch chaired the task force with representatives from several states, government offices and business owners in attendance.
1. Review the 2010-11 season
It was reported that YNP received great snow this winter. Still seeing a lot of visitors. There was only a difference of 83 individual visitors between 22,691 snowmobilers and 22,774 snowcoach riders. Then, at the south gate of YNP the demand was rampant. Permits issued were used. Coordination between businesses kept all of the permits filled. And in West Yellowstone the permits were used to capacity. Jack Welch commented that snowcoach visitations had not expanded as predicted.
2. Review of events with new Superintendent Dan Wenk, in Jackson, Cody and West Yellowstone
In Jackson Hole there was a good "greet and meet" with 100 plus in attendance as Dan Wenk was introduced as the new Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. They also reported that they had put together a "marketing package" where visitors would come to ski one day and snowmobile the next. It was widely accepted.
In West Yellowstone a "meet and greet" was held that was very positive to snowmobiling. Supt. Wenk talked to the group for about an hour and then opened it up for questions. He was told that his reputation precedes him and they look forward to working with him. It was reported that John Sacklin is retiring and his opinions have swung from the negative to the positive as he has seen what the winter recreationists have brought. It was also mentioned that West Yellowstone has been working for years with the ski resort in Big Sky to also provide an experience for visitors of riding snowmobiles in the Park.
The report from the East gate area at Cody, WY: they expect the new Park Superintendent to visit in late May.
3. Snowmobile industries position on Yellowstone issue
The manufacturers are hopeful that the Winter Use Plan will be positive to snowmobiling in YNP. They will send in comments after the Draft EIS is published. They will also be supportive in getting the word out to snowmobilers. A concern was expressed about where the WY Attorney General's office stands on this issue.
4. Status of the State of Wyoming legal efforts
The WY AG's office will continue to stay on top of this issue. Wyoming's "standing" is good as to the lawsuit with the date for oral arguments to be held this summer. Park County, WY, also has standing in the lawsuit. The Wyoming Governor strongly supports use of snowmobiles in YNP. Once the Draft is released there will be a 60 day comment period. They expect a Final Decision late this fall on winter use in the Park. Jack noted that Paul Turcke, BlueRibbon attorney will be requested to get more details on the legal actions and "Wyoming Standing" issue.
5. Review of Park Service plans for Outreach on DEIS
Jack Welch reported that Al Nash is in charge of the Outreach, webinars and meeting schedules. On May 4 there was an Operators Meeting. Public meetings on the Draft EIS will be held in June in West Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, Bozeman, Cody, Denver, Lakewood, and Washington, D.C. Cooperator Agency Meetings are also being scheduled.
6. Discussion of Materials provide by Park Service in the July 2010 Park Service Newsletter "Draft Range of Alternatives and Scoping Results"
A newsletter reviewing the Draft Range of Alternative and Scoping Results has been published. No real solution is proposed. One alternative: "plowing the roads" is not viable in most people's estimation. Alternative No. 3: 2004 Rule: Consensus of the group was that 720 a day was not reasonable, but a number of entries in the 500 plus range be considered as a more reasonable number. Alternative No. 6: places seasonal limits at 540 a day. Possibly up to 25 percent available for individuals. There will be a Preferred Alternative that is made up of several things taken from a variety of alternatives. Jack said that John Sacklin who has handled the EIS development in the past and his family will be leaving to join the Peace Corps in South America. It was mentioned that John Sacklin felt that the 2011-12 Winter Season will be a `Transition Season' using the current numbers and will mirror the 2010-11 Season. Final Decision will be late Fall (Nov-Dec).
For current information on the Yellowstone Winter Use Issue you can go to the BlueRibbon Coalition Yellowstone website: www.saveyellowstonepark.com or contact Jack Welch at (303) 324-7185 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.