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Comment Period On Yellowstone Proposed Rule For Winter Use Ends June 17

Published online: Jun 14, 2013 News BlueRibbon Coalition
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The National Park Service (NPS) has announced the release of a Proposed Rule concerning winter use in Yellowstone National Park for public review and comment. This rulemaking process is in addition to the Final Winter Use Plan/Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), which was released February 22, 2013. 

The Proposed Rule, published in the Federal Register on April 16, 2013, has a 60-day public comment period ending June 17, 2013.

The proposed rule will more effectively manage access for snowmobiles and snowcoaches in Yellowstone National Park while minimizing impacts on visitors, air and sound quality and wildlife. The proposed rule will guide management of winter use in the park and will implement the preferred alternative in the Final SEIS.

Under that preferred alternative, the park would permit up to 110 "transportation events" daily. Transportation events are initially defined as one snowcoach or a group of up to 10 snowmobiles. Up to 50 transportation events may be groups of snowmobiles. Management by transportation events is an impact-centric approach designed to minimize the impact of Oversnow Vehicles (OSVs) on air quality, soundscapes and wildlife rather than focusing solely on the number of vehicles allowed in the park. It's worth noting that by the 2017-18 season all snowmobiles entering the park would be required to meet new Best Available Technology (BAT) standards for snowmobiles.

This new, practical, approach to OSV management also provides greater flexibility for OSV commercial tour operators, rewards future OSV technological innovations and reduces OSV-caused environmental impacts, all while making the park cleaner and quieter than previously authorized and allowing for increases in visitation. Four transportation events per day (one per gate) would be reserved for non-commercially guided BAT snowmobile access, and Sylvan Pass would continue to be operated in accordance with the Sylvan Pass Working Group Agreement.

The winter of 2013-14 will be a transition year, during which the park will allow motorized over-snow travel under the same conditions in place for the past four winters: up to 318 commercially guided BAT snowmobiles and up to 78 commercially guided snowcoaches daily.

The Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park will use the analysis and recommendations contained in the final SEIS and comments on the proposed rule to make a final recommendation to the NPS Intermountain Regional Director regarding the direction of winter use. The regional director is expected to issue the record of decision (ROD) sometime this summer, after which a final rule to implement the decision will be published in the Federal Register in order to allow the park to open for the 2013-14 winter season.

Additional information on Yellowstone's winter use planning process, including answers to frequently asked questions, can be found at http://www.nps.gov/yell/parkmgmt/currentmgmt.htm

The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC), which has long championed responsible recreation and wise environmental stewardship, is urging snowmobilers to comment before the June 17 deadline. Comments may be submitted through the NPS website, by mail or hand delivered to park headquarters in Mammoth Hot Springs, WY. Comments will not be accepted by fax, email, or in any other way than those specified above. Bulk comments in any format (hard copy or electronic), submitted on behalf of others, will not be accepted.

For up-to-date information on the Yellowstone Winter Use Issue, go to the BlueRibbon Coalition's website www.saveyellowstonepark.com.

For questions and other information, contact Al Nash or Dan Hottle at (307) 344-2015. More info is also available on the web at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/YELL

BlueRibbon has formed the Yellowstone Task Force, which is made up of state and national snowmobile leaders, the snowmobile industry, commercial tour operators, and representatives from the affected gateway communities, as well as elected officials at the county, state and national level. These groups have reviewed the Proposed Rule and have suggested comments. BRC is asking for any and all snowmobile enthusiasts-especially those who have been to Yellowstone-to comment on the Proposed Rule.

Following are BRC's instructions for submitting a comment. Please be polite and, if possible, make your comment letter as personal as you can.

  1. Click here. This link will take you to the Government Regulations comment webpage. Read and follow the instructions for completing the Comment Form.
  2. Use the comments suggestions below as a guideline for your comments. However, try to make your comment letter as personal as possible.
  3. Take just a minute to add a bit about where you live, any winter visits you have made to Yellowstone, how often you go, how long you have been riding in the area and how important the area is to you.
  4. Once you have completed your comments, click the "Submit" button.

You may also comment by mail to: Yellowstone National Park, Winter Use Plan - Proposed Rule - (RIN 1024-AE15), P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone NPWY 82190.

BRC's recommended topics of comment include, but are not limited to:

  • I support the "Proposed Rule" and continued winter access to Yellowstone National Park by snowmobiles.
  • Snowmobiles have been used to access Yellowstone National Park for over 50 years and should continue to provide a special form of winter transportation.
  • I support the concept of "Transportation Events" as a method of allocating access to Yellowstone Park in winter. 
    I support the current dates for the winter season of 2017-18 for the New BAT to be required for both snowmobiles and snowcoaches.
  • I support the three phases of transition from the current Winter Use Plan to the new Winter Use Plan as outlined in the "Proposed Rule."
    I support the concept of non-commercially guided access to Yellowstone on BAT snowmobiles in the winter. 
  • I support continued winter access for both snowmobiles and snowcoaches to the Park over Sylvan Pass from the East Gate.
  • I support the American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ACSA) in providing input in the development the Yellowstone Snowmobile Education Certificate Program for Non-Commercially Guided groups. 
  • Please add my name to the Yellowstone Winter Use mailing list and keep me informed as the process moves forward.

Click here to print out the above comments as a mailable form letter.

Again, the comment peiod on proposed rules ends Monday, June 17, 2013.