By Jack Welch, Special Projects
On Feb. 22 the National Park Service (NPS) announced the
release of the final Winter Use Plan and Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
(Final Plan/SEIS) for Yellowstone
The Winter Use Plan Final SEIS analyzes a wide range of
alternatives and now has a new final Preferred Alternative. BlueRibbon and its partners
will be reviewing the Final Plan/SEIS and will have additional feedback in the
However, in the Park Service media release, under the
new preferred alternative, the Park would allow up to 110 "transportation
events" a day, initially defined as either one snowcoach or on average a
group of seven snowmobiles. No more than 50 transportation events a day would be
allocated for groups of snowmobiles.
In addition, a new one entry a day per entrance of
non-commercially guided groups of five snowmobiles would be allowed. This
non-commercially guided concept will be the first time in five plus years that
non-commercially guided snowmobile access will be provided. Note, all five of
the sleds in the group will have to meet Best Available Technology (BAT)
The preferred alternative would also allow for motorized oversnow
travel on the East Gate road over Sylvan
Important to note is the fact that in the preferred
alternative there is a one-year transition period with the Park operating
winter use under the same rules and use levels as we have since 2008. That means
that for the 2013/2014 season up to 318 commercially guided Best Available
Technology snowmobiles and up to 78 commercially guided snowcoaches will be
allowed daily. Starting in 2014/2015 the number for snowmobiles could increase
to 480 commercially guided daily entries and 20 noncommercially guided daily
An electronic copy of the actual details of the Final
Plan/SEIS, are available at the National Park Service's Planning, Environment
and Public Comment (PEPC) website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/yell.
Once there, click on the "2012 Supplemental Winter Use Plan EIS" link
and than click on "Document List." You can also request a printed copy
of the Final Plan/SEIS by contacting the National Park Service, Management
Assistant's Office, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone
National Park, WY 82190.
The next step in the Winter Use Process will be the release
of the "Proposed Draft Rule" that would be used to implement the
Park's preferred alternative; this rule will have a 60-day comment period.
This "Proposed Draft Rule's" comment period will
be our opportunity to comment on all aspects of the final Winter Use Plan/SEIS.
The comment period will close 60 days after the EPA publishes a "Notice of
Availability" of the "Proposed Draft Rule" in the Federal
Register. That date will be announced soon. BlueRibbon will supply possible
areas to comment on the "Proposed Draft Rule" in the near future.
The National Park Service intends to have a Record of
Decision and a final rule guiding winter use in place before the start of the
2013-2014 winter season.
For current updates on the Yellowstone Winter Use issue go
to the BlueRibbon dedicated website of