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Wyoming Governor Calling For More Snowmobiles In Yellowstone National Park


Wyoming officials want to see as many as 540 snowmobiles allowed into Yellowstone each day during the park's winter season, conditions allowing. Photo of the Upper Geyser Basin from Observation Point by Kurt Repanshek.

Wyoming's governor believes 540 snowmobiles a day could travel through Yellowstone National Park in winter without adversely impacting wildlife, air quality, or the park's soundscape.

Gov. Matt Mead made that point in the state's official comments to park officials, who are working on yet another environmental impact statement intended to come up with a feasible and legally defensible winter-use plan for Yellowstone.

"The daily limits listed in the proposed rule for snowmobile use is too low. The best available information for air quality, soundscape, and wildlife supports a level in the range of 540 snowmobiles per day," wrote the governor. "At that daily allocation level the impact to resources is recorded as minimal within the Draft Yellowstone Winter Use Plan and DEIS."

The park's currently preferred alternative, he said, would reduce by nearly 6,000 the number of snowmobiles entering the park over the course of the winter. Such a reduction would have a direct impact on the regional economy, Gov. Mead wrote.

"Yellowstone winter use is closely tied to businesses involved with recreation, hotels, restaurants, etc. Local communities are built around a seasonal economy, and the park is a large piece of that seasonal economy," he noted.

For more than a decade the debate over how winter in Yellowstone should be enjoyed has dragged on. The Park Service has gone back and forth with the political winds, calling back in 2000 for recreational snowmobile use to be phased out completely only to see the Bush administration drop that decision in favor of continued snowmobile use.

Legal battles waged by those who want continued snowmobile use and those who believe Yellowstone would be healthier without snowmobiles have prolonged the debate and led to a fistful of environmental studies -- environmental assessments as well as more complex and detailed environmental impact statements.

Under the park's currently preferred alternative, up to 330 snowmobiles and 80 snowcoaches would be allowed daily into the park for 45 days of the 90-day winter season. However, the Park Service's own science has pointed to 250 as the daily threshhold of snowmobiles over which the park's resources would be adversely impacted.

There are seven alternatives in the DEIS. In addition to the park's preferred option, which calls for a sliding scale of sorts that would determine daily snowmobile and snowcoach limits, one option calls for not allowing any motorized use, another  calls for phasing out snowmobiles in favor of snowcoaches, and one  proposes allowing up to 720 snowmobiles and 78 snowcoaches per day.

In his letter to the park, Gov. Mead believes the park's preferred alternative would prevent many visitors from enjoying Yellowstone in winter.

"Protection of resources does not have to come at the expense of access; we can have both -- healthy resources and open access," the governor stressed. "I reiterate what I wrote you in July -- we can balance protection of the park’s resources and snowmobile access, and I am committed to working with you and others to that end."

Gov. Mead also urged the park to allow non-commercial snowmobile trips in the park.

"The requirement that 100% of snowmobile entries into Yellowstone be commercially guided is extreme and unreasonable. Responsible non-commercial use of Yellowstone can be accomplished," he maintained. "It can be accomplished through a well-designed non-commercial guide system that includes an educational component with Yellowstone-specific elements to help visitors safely and responsibly visit the park. Non-commercial access to Yellowstone is important to the State of Wyoming, its communities, citizens, and visitors."


I decided i'm not coming to Yellowstone this winter because there is too much snowmobile exhaust so i will not be staying at any Yellowstone hotels or eating any food around there.  Hope this doesn't hinder Yellowstone's economic recovery.

 Two years ago my family and i did a snowmobile tour of Yellowstone and we really enjoyed it. We have been to YS 4 times in the past 3 years. It seems to me that for many of us the only way to see the park with only a few days in which to do it is on snowmobiles. We did not notice any adverse effects on the wildlife during our trip. The bison passing close enough to us to actually touch as they passed. The guides were very careful that we did not disturb the animals.I understand that many wish YS could revert to almost no human interaction and really understand that desire but everyone has an opinion.For my family to enjoy YS during the winter the supervised and careful snowmobile trip was perfect. I would be against non-commercial snowmobile use however. It needs to be carefully controlled like it is now. JMHO

This focus on snowmobiles and other loud, smelly vehicles as the sole driver of the winter economy around Yellowstone is short-sighted.  There is much to be gained from promoting the area as a place to slow down, not a place to go fast.  Try that for a few winters, and see what happens.

I think that there's plenty of places around Yellowstone without having to up the number of snowmobiles. If animals outside of the park can not be provided the same protections as animals within the boundaries, the park service should be able to best decide what is most beneficial for the park and the inhabitants. This is a national park and not a state park - it does not seem that it should be a decision for the governor as it belongs to all, not just any one locale nor the businesses that have benefitted from their association surrounding the boundaries.

The National Parks were not created to provide jobs or to create buisness oportunities.It is nice that people can make a living who live near parks but it is not the reason they are there.Also it is not the governments job to create jobs.The governor should know that.

Whats the average daily use over the last 5 yrs? I was at YS in the winter i dont think i saw more than 100 snowmobiles in a day, for the 5 days i was there. i have to say 540 seems a little high

The average number of snowmobiles per day during the 2008-09 winter season was 205. Wyoming officials say the numbers would have been higher in recent years if there hadn't been so much uncertainty over whether snowmobiles would be allowed in and under what circumstances.

If 205 is the average, then 250 to 300 is not unreasonable,Not sure why uncertainty would keep the numbers down.Look i get both side of this,but if demand is only 205 machines a day then why propose 540? Split the difference.Shake hands and enjoy the park

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