State of Wyoming And One of Its Counties Again Seeking Permission To Sue Over Yellowstone National Park Snowmobile Limits

The state of Wyoming and one of its counties are again seeking an avenue to sue the federal government over the reduced number of snowmobiles allowed in Yellowstone National Park on a daily basis.

In an interview earlier this week with the Powell Tribune, Park County Commissioner Tim French said the county and state were appealing a federal judge's decision last fall that they had no legal standing to contest the Interior Department's limits on daily snowmobile and snowcoach access to Yellowstone in winter.

"If anybody has standing, it’s Park County,” Mr. French told the newspaper, adding later, “We should absolutely be allowed to argue our point of view in the court.”

The county and state have made similar, unsuccessful, arguments in the past.

The county seat of Park County is Cody, which lies 53 miles east of Yellowstone's east entrance. In terms of winter use, it recently has seen very little access in winter. For example, most over-snow visitors (6,178) who came into Yellowstone in December entered the park through the West Entrance at West Yellowstone while 2,244 arrived via the South Entrance north of Jackson, Wyoming. Just 81 snowmobiles came through the East Entrance west of Cody.

No snowcoach traffic currently comes in from the East Entrance, as the park couldn't find a concessionaire to provide the service.

According to the Powell newspaper, the county, state and the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association last Monday appealed U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson's ruling that neither the state nor the county had legal standing to appeal an earlier decision upholding the daily limits of 318 snowmobiles and 78 snowcoaches while Yellowstone planners work on a fourth environmental impact statement aimed at developing a sound winter-use plan for the park.

“Wyoming and Park County have more at stake as a result of the 2009 Winter Use Plans than any single individual, visitor, merchant, or guide,” wrote the parties in a brief filed with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “It defies logic for the law to permit the (National Parks Conservation Association) to participate in this litigation based on the actions of as little as one of its members, but to conclude that Wyoming and Park County do not have standing to redress the unlawful acts of the (National Park Service) within the borders of the state and county.”

Comments

The park does not belong to Wyoming. I'm sure they take in quite a bit of tourism revenue from Yellowstone. Peace and quiet should rule over the noise of snowmobiles.

Yellowstone is not about snowmobiles! It is about nature and the animals that live there. I agree with C.C. Yellowstone doesn't belong to Wyoming, it belong to the Untied States and to us all.

I like the idea of having the snow-busses that go into the park, but unfortunately, their prices are extreme for most folks, especially ones on a tight budget that come for vacation. I would like to see more of them available at a much lower rate and a more flexible schedule to accomodate those that want to take their time in the park. I think that would help with some of the snowmobile issues.

Wyoming is so large and there are so many areas of the state that have open land. What doesn't Wyoming create a snowmobile park? We have several here in Oregon and snowmobiles are not allowed at Crater Lake, to my knowledge. At least I have never seen any there. Because like Yellowstone, Crater Lake is closed except to the Rim all winter long. Snowshoes and cross country skiis are allowed and encouraged. I would really hate to see those machines come to Crater Lake.

But I can certainly see the frustration of the county on this point- on the one hand, snowmobile use is being limited becaue there's too many causing too much harm, but the county can't get involved in the court case because they don't have enough snowmobiles going into the Park. You may not think they should win their point, but don't they have a right to present it?

C.C.
The park does not belong to Wyoming. I'm sure they take in quite a bit of tourism revenue from Yellowstone. Peace and quiet should rule over the noise of snowmobiles.
I think they get a good deal of sales/lodging tax revenue from park visitors. However - the way Yellowstone is laid out means that the most popular entrances are the North and West Entrances - next to West Yellowstone and Gardiner respectively. This is where the bulk of the people staying just outside Yellowstone are spending their money - in Montana.

I'm wondering who laid this out. I thought at the time Yellowstone NP was established, it was all territorial land. The explanation I heard was that states were hesitant to have the federal government take over a reservation of land, but Yellowstone didn't have that problem. Yosemite was established by the federal government as a reservation, but handed over to California to be controlled as a state park.

Remember that Yellowstone Park staff has had to wear respirators at times because of the snomobile pollution. That pollution alone is reason enough to severely regulate the motor use of a National Park.

Entrenched business by nature seeks to conserve its continuance. Parks and National Forest were established long before mechanized means of exploiting resources occurred. Chainsaws, roads every few hundred meters, and heavy population use, were not adequately provisioned for back in the 1800s.

However, if the communities surrounding Yellowstone, and in the Greater Yellowstone area, could recognize that change away from destructive use is an opportunity for them and for their children, the business owners might use the very same changes in law to advertise their healthy recreational values, the wealth of their unique ecosystem, and their part in something to be proud of, into the distant future.

I'm sure there are many in Gardner and West Yellowstone and on roads to all the entry points who understand this.

Could it be that Mother Nature played a big role in determining road layout in the park? Didn't early park people like Hiram Chittenden pretty much follow the line of least resistance when surveying roads?

After all, a mountain pass is pretty hard to move.

And didn't at least some towns develop where they are because the roads and entrances were there first? West Yellowstone, for instance?

Lee Dalton:
Could it be that Mother Nature played a big role in determining road layout in the park? Didn't early park people like Hiram Chittenden pretty much follow the line of least resistance when surveying roads?

After all, a mountain pass is pretty hard to move.

And didn't at least some towns develop where they are because the roads and entrances were there first? West Yellowstone, for instance?

However - my thinking was that the location of the "gateway" of West Yellowstone is in Montana because of where the Yellowstone NP boundaries were drawn - with the north and west perimeters in Montana and Idaho. The park itself is overwhelmingly in Wyoming, but three of the five entrances are in Montana, with a gateway town near each one. If they drew up the map such that there was a little bit of Wyoming land before reaching the entrance, it would have made sense to build a community in Wyoming - with tax dollars going to Wyoming. I don't recall there's much of a gateway community at the east entrance, and the south entrance connects to more NPS land (Rockefeller Parkway).

Here's an interesting map. I'm not sure what Senate Bill 1753 was supposed to be. It (along with a House bill) would have placed Yellowstone NP entirely within Wyoming. Still - looked to have placed the west and north boundaries right at the border, so any gateway community would still have been in Montana.

http://www.history-map.com/picture/003/Yellowstone-boundaries-National-Park.htm

couple of points I would like to make about snow machines in the Yellowstone Park.

1. the new snow machines are a lot cleaner(produce less pollution) and are a lot quieter. I think a lot of people think of the old loud smelly 2-stroke engines, but they are no longer permitted in the park. the new 4-stroke engines are a lot quieter then all the motorcycles that roll through the park during the summer time.

2. if the roads are already groomed and are already being used by special interest groups or park rangers. Why not let the people use them as well.

3. I think the people of Wyoming would like the business and tax revenue that a good winter use program would add to Wyoming.

4. I think the people of wyoming in general have the best interest of the park in mind and they would like to show it off to the people that own it(that's you).

5. I like the idea of having snow machine guides in the park, because they keep the safety of the animals and group in mind.

For the last couple of years I have had the chance to visit the park a number of times I would have to say that the noise and smell from the snow machines have been minimal, far less the summer automotive actives.

Thank you, YPW. That was an interesting map. I wonder if some lobbyists back then had anything to do with setting some of the park boundaries where they finally wound up?

And all of a sudden, I realized that I almost agree with Anonymous' comments regarding the difference between modern and older snow machines. I've been up there enjoying snow coach trips and have been very pleasantly surprised at the quietness of the new sleds. And if their guides are anywhere near as conscientious as those employed by Xanterra to drive the snow coaches, then we need not be too worried about safety of wildlife and other resources.

I was in the park last summer at the same time as half of all the motorcycles in the world were either coming from or going to the Black Hills. The noise from many of them was nothing short of incredible.

No matter what decision is finally made, let's just hope it is made with great wisdom and careful science.

THERE ARE CERTAINLY ALOT OF BUASED OPINION HERE. THE SNOWMOBILE ISSUE WAS PRETTY WELL QUIETED WITH THE ADVENT OF THE 4 CYCLE ENGINE RESTRICTION. THERE ARE CURRENT LIMITS THAT RESTRICT TO THE USE OF "CURRENT TECHNOLOGY" FOR SNOW MOBILES. WHAT RIGHT DOES THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE OR ANY OTHER BRANCH OF THE GOVERNMENT HAVE TO RESTRICT FREE ENTERPRISE? THE PARK WAS RESERVED FOR THE PEOPLE.... I REALLY DO NOT THINK THAT THERE HAS EVER BEEN A DOCUMENTED DEATH OF AN ANIMAL IN YELLOWSTONE (BY THE WAY, MY FAVORITE PARK ), FROM AIR POLUTION. GUIDED TRIPS STOP THE HOTDOGGERS AND THE FOOLS. ALL THE BIASED CONCERN FOR A FEW ANIMALS? WHAT ABOUT THE YEARLY SLAUGHTER OF ALL THE BISON? THATS WHERE THE SHAME SHOULD BE. MORE POLUTION IS LET OFF FROM THE GROUND HOURLY THAN FROM A FEW HUNDRED SNOMOBILES PER DAY FOR THE SHORT SEASON THEY HAVE....LETS GET REAL ALREADY!

Uh - the Federal government restricts free enterprise all the time. One needs a permit to operate tours in NPS areas. There have been limits placed on the number of mule rides in Grand Canyon. A company hasn't gotten approval for Segway-based tours of Yosemite. The superintendent at Haleakala NP stopped issuing permits for bicycle tour operators to start their customers rides inside the park.

There are snowmobile trails all throughout the National Forest land around Yellowstone and Grand Teton. I recall seeing rented ATVs heading for off-road trails in Idaho a few miles outside of Yellowstone. Free enterprise still exists.

Anonymous wrote: "WHAT RIGHT DOES THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE OR ANY OTHER BRANCH OF THE GOVERNMENT HAVE TO RESTRICT FREE ENTERPRISE? "

The U. S. Constitution

wyoming has plenty of places to snowmobile,they dont need yellowstone period. yellowstone is as one reader stated,yeloowstone is a place of peace,and quite. wy should be spending their money on getting jobs for their people and taking care of their own state. do you really think the bears,wolfves,elk,deer,etc. like to see or listen to these machines...////????

Just returned from a snowmobile tour in Yellostone. It was amazing. The machines are fairly quite and no more than 10 machines in a group are allowed,we travled about 180 miles and saw 2 or 3 groups, and 4 o r5 snow coachs. The only time we had a close encounter with wildlife was some bison on the road, the guide had us stop turnoff the machines, and let the Bison pass us by. 318 snowmobiles and 78 snowcoaches a day sounds like a good balance. you have to remember winter use was just over 6 thousand in december...summer use 2.5 million july, august.

destroyerman:
wyoming has plenty of places to snowmobile,they dont need yellowstone period. yellowstone is as one reader stated,yeloowstone is a place of peace,and quite. wy should be spending their money on getting jobs for their people and taking care of their own state. do you really think the bears,wolfves,elk,deer,etc. like to see or listen to these machines...////????
To be fair, there will be snowmobiles in Yellowstone even if private users aren't allowed to ride them. NPS has personnel all around Yellowstone during winter, and they get supplies and mail delivered by snowmobile to areas that aren't plowed or that aren't served by the snowcoaches.

The following mentions that winter mail delivery via snowmobile was one of the more unique jobs that renowned NPS Shelton Johnson had:

http://www.nps.gov/pwro/employee1.htm

I once asked a Yellowstone ranger if he had ever ridden a snowmobile in Yellowstone. It was during an interpretive walk where the subject of snowmobiles came up. He said that he'd done it once in his career and he didn't much like it. He said that he was so covered from head to toe with equipment that he felt totally disconnected from the outside world.

When the subject of snowmobiles comes up, I try to slip in a mention of the snowmobile drive-thru at a McDonald's in Sweden:

It would be crime to stop the public from entering the park on snowmobiles in the winter. The chaos that ensues every summer from the enourmous amount of visitors doesnt compare to the amount of visiters on snowmobile in winter. If you are going to lessen impacts on the park, you would need to start with limiting the amount of car traffic in the summer and that would be totally against the "for all to enjoy" purpose of the park. My family visits the park about 5 times a year. Those against snowmobiles need to get on one and see the park from that prespective and then see it from a car in the summer. Have fun sitting in the traffic jams and tell me about the emmisions from all those idle vehicles.
The retrictions currently on snowmobiles in the park are working!!!