By Kevin Huelsmann
Jackson Hole (Wyo) News&Guide
Teton County commissioners last week asked federal officials to allow more snowmobiles to access Yellowstone National Park as part of a proposed plan for winter use.
In comments submitted a week ago, commissioners said national park officials should consider the effects on businesses as they review a proposed plan for winter use and access to Yellowstone.
“The numbers allowed to each community are not sufficient for local businesses to develop and follow viable business plans, particularly when those numbers can vary from day to day,” commissioners said.
The current proposal being mulled by park officials would allow between 110 and 330 snowmobiles to enter Yellowstone on a daily basis.
Coupled with the cap on the number of snowmobiles allowed in the park, the plan would require guides to use snowmobiles with the best available emissions technology by the winter of 2014-15.
Commissioners urged park officials to raise the proposed daily limit to 500 sleds.
County officials said there is a “lack of any scientific justification for the number of snowmobiles allowed under the current plan.”
Commissioners said park officials’ proposal also would make snowmobiling too expensive for many visitors.
“These artificially low numbers will make the cost for visitors so high that seeing Yellowstone by snowmobile will be limited to the wealthy,” commissioners said. “Increasing the allowed number from the proposed 330 to 500 would address these concerns.”
In their comments, commissioners said they focused so heavily on the number because environmental impacts already have been largely addressed through the improved design of snowmobiles.
“Those impacts can and have been addressed through the newest generation of quieter and cleaner snowmobiles,” commissioners said, referring to environmental impacts of snowmobiles. “Given this, the allowed number should be based on adjacent community impacts and visitor opportunities.”
Commissioners’ sentiments closely mirror those of Gov. Matt Mead, who also submitted a written statement to park officials last week.