It’s probably hard for most folks to keep up on the struggle over snowmobiles in Yellowstone Park. The article today indicates that the current temporary plan has now mostly become the draft plan for the future. Public comments will be taken beginning in March 2007.

Snowmobiling in the Park would continue with a maximum 720 machines a day allowed. The snowmobiles will be held to standards meant to ensure they are both quieter and less polluting than before the controversy arose. This requires 4-stroke, rather than the typical 2-stroke snowmobile engire. Furthermore, all riders have to go with a commercial guide.

The biggest difference between the temporary and the draft plan is the closure of the East Entrance of the Park to snowmobiles. The East Entrance gets small use and the expenditure for avalanche control are very high, amounting to a huge subsidy per snowmobile user for that Entrance.

Story in Billings Gazette by Mike Stark.

Probably the most important recent development, however, is not the plan, but on the ground. Actual snowmobile use has dropped far below this cap. Last winter only about 250 snowmobiles a day entered the Park. A number of news articles have written of the profound drop in Yellowstone snowmobile use. The reasons seem to be 1. lack of snow 2. many snowmobiles users don’t like the restraints on speed and noise 3. many snowmobilers don’t like the requirement of a guide 4. with a decline in snowmobile use, snowcoach use has been able to become rooted. More and more visitors choose a snowcoach to enter wintertime Yellowstone.

 
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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

One Response to Plan allows 720 sleds a day in Yellowstone

  1. avatar mike says:

    As I have said consistently, I admit that things are better now than in the old days; but, 1) there has always been a “get them to give you an inch, then take them for a mile” attitude within the snowmobile group; 2) we are already seeing the drive to build lighter, faster, more powerful 4-stroke machines that are starting to inch their way back to the noise and pollution levels of earlier “non-BAT” machines; and 3) I am concerned that what seems to be a fairly vague definition of BAT will not prevent our having to confront, over time, the appearance of 400 horsepower, aluminum-engined, composite-structured, 4-stroke snowmobiles nearing the size and impact of your average diesel locomotive. No, such a machine would not be any advantage under the proposed guide requirement; but, I can easily see the snowmobile crowd sliding bigger and more powerful sleds in under a vague BAT regulation, then pushing for the elimination of the guides at a later date. Also, remember that snowmobile numbers are down now at least in part because the manufacturers have not had time to field or have chosen not to perturb the debate by prematurely fielding 4-stroke designs with full “hotdog” capabilities; but, it’s probable that they eventually will. If we are going to let this kind of activity into the Park at all, then we better make sure we have a good tight BAT definition or we are going to confront the 1990s again. I can easily imagine the development of such nightmare 4-stroke machines that, even at only 720 per day, they would create a horrendous mess.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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