National Park Service planners will implement a “One-Year Rule” for the upcoming 2011-12 winter season, in order to allow time to better address significant public input regarding the proposed long-term regulation.
More than 58,000 responses were received during the 60-day public comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that closed on July 18, with significant input on the long-term proposal’s requirements and approaches. The goal had been to have a new long-term final Winter Use Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and regulation in effect for the park by December, 2011.
Among the issues that NPS wants to analyze further before issuing a long-term regulation are:
• Variable preset use limits
• Air quality and sound modeling assumptions
• Proposed Best Available Technology (BAT) for snowcoaches
• Adaptive management framework for emerging technologies
• Costs of avalanche mitigation efforts on Sylvan Pass
• The 10:30 entry time requirement included in the preferred alternative
• Opportunities for non-commercially guided access
In the near-term, the NPS plans to issue a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) that will select only the “transition year” portion of the preferred alternative. In addition, the NPS will issue a final rule—allowing winter use for one year—allowing the same use levels with the same restrictions as the interim rule that was in place the past two seasons.
The rule will allow for up to 318 commercially guided BAT snowmobiles and up to 78 commercially guided snowcoaches per day in Yellowstone for the 2011-12 season. It will also continue to provide for motorized oversnow travel over the East Entrance road and Sylvan Pass.
Following the issuance of the ROD and one-year rule, the NPS will immediately begin work to supplement the FEIS. The NPS intends to have a final supplemental EIS, a long-term ROD, and a long-term regulation in place before the start of the 2012-13 winter season.