Yellowstone snowmobile plan tossed out
Judge axes National Park Service’s Winter Use Plan
Story by Snowmobile.com Staff, Sep. 16, 2008Email a friend Print Friendly RSS
U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan threw out the National Park Service’s (NPS) Winter Use Plan, which was introduced in December of 2007. The plan allowed access for up to 540 best available technology snowmobiles per day.
“According to NPS’s own data, the (Winter Use Plan) will increase air pollution, exceed the use levels recommended by NPS biologists to protect wildlife, and cause major adverse impacts to the natural soundscape in Yellowstone,” Sullivan said in his order.
Sullivan did not put any substitute rule in place and ordered the National Park Service to redo the plan.
This ruling is the latest in a long history surrounding the National Park Service’s Winter Use Rules. In fact, a related case challenging the Winter Use Rule as being too restrictive of snowmobiling is ongoing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming.
Litigation surrounding this issue appears far from over and questions remain about how many, if any, snowmobiles will be allowed in Yellowstone National Park for the 2008-09 season.
The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA), American Council of Snowmobile Associations (ASCA) and the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) intend to ask the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming to reinstate the temporary rule that preceded the 2007 Winter Use Rule and allowed for up to 720 best available technology snowmobiles per day in Yellowstone.
It is possible that Judge Sullivan’s ruling may result in there being no snowmobile or snowcoach use in Yellowstone this winter, but that depends on the National Park Service’s response, a possible appeal of Judge Sullivan’s ruling and the ongoing Wyoming litigation.
“Judge Sullivan’s ruling represents a radical departure from established legal principles and interpretations of governing statutes,” says a statement issued by the ISMA, ASCA and BRC. “His broad-ranging and novel interpretations of the National Park Service Organic Act and the Yellowstone National Park Act prohibit the Park Service from approving nearly any visitor activity causing impacts to Natural Park resources. This has the potential to bar a broad range of visitor activities in National Parks year round, including car, truck, RV, motorcycle, and other motorized vehicle access during the spring, summer, and fall months. It also has the potential to do so throughout the Park System, not just in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
“Finally, Judge Sullivan’s ruling ignores the long history of broad discretion for the Park Service to balance conservation with visitor use and enjoyment in its management of the Park System. By second-guessing the Park Service’s methodology for evaluating the impacts of the rule, it also departs from the well-established legal principles requiring courts to defer to governmental agencies’ scientific and technical judgments.”