By Mark Wilcox
Denver — Yellowstone
snowmobiling is tracking its way back to court—again. After striking down the
rights of the state of Wyoming and counties on
lack of standing to challenge federal snowmobile regulations in Yellowstone and
Grand Teton National Parks, a Denver-based federal
appeals court last week withdrew its decision and will rehear the case.
The court's original decision came through on Feb. 29, declaring that while Wyoming and Park
County do lose sales tax
revenue based on the federal snowmobile limitations, "the alleged injuries
were not only generalized grievances, but also speculative and hypothetical
economic interests not sufficient to demonstrate an injury to concrete
The appellants—Park County, the state and the International Snowmobile
Manufacturers Association Inc.—requested the rehearing by petition, stating
they have a right to influence rules because the federal ruling affected local
This marks the latest phase of a court battle which dates to the Clinton administration.
The controversy about how to manage snowmobile access to the national parks has
volleyed between state courts, federal courts and appeals courts. Opponents say
snowmobile access harms wildlife, infrastructure and air quality in the parks.
Proponents disagree, declaring a negligible impact in such categories while
offering tourism and tax revenues a boost.
As it stands currently, Yellowstone allowed a temporary snowmobile access rule
for the 2011-2012 season to eclipse in March, which allowed 318 professionally
guided, pollution-controlled snowmobiles into Yellowstone
daily. The rule was substantially a mirror image of a 2009 temporary rule that
had just expired. Yellowstone plans to have a
permanent rule in place by the next season.
Wyoming and Park County
filed separate federal petitions seeking review of the 2009 rules, which they
claim violate several acts and statutes. Park County
claimed that it had standing because the 2009 rules would harm sales tax
collections, thereby decreasing tax revenues to its general fund that pay for
The state said the daily limit on snowmobiling, the commercial guide
requirements and the future season uncertainty bred by the temporary rules
negatively affect winter tourism. Additionally, Wyoming
argued that snowmobilers unable to go to Yellowstone
would instead lay tracks through national forests, which ups maintenance costs
for state-run trails programs.