Judge throws out Yellowstone snowmobile plan. AP

Another round in the never-ending controversy!

This link was suggested by a recent post to the wrong thread.

Here, finally are a few details. Judge Discards Yellowstone National Park Plan for Snowmobile Use. By Lucia Stewart. New West.

Tagged with:
 
avatar
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.

49 Responses to Judge throws out Yellowstone snowmobile plan

  1. avatar Chuck Parker says:

    This is disgraceful for the National Park Service. Ten years, tens of thousands of public comments, and over $10 million on 3 Environmental Impact Statements that shout “NO snowmobiles,” but Yellowstone officials refuse to give snowmobiles the boot. Now the NPS will stall until the election is over. If Obama wins, the Dems might have the cajones to kick out snowmobiles. If McCain wins . . . Sarah Palin’s husband races snowmobiles . . .

  2. avatar Barb says:

    Yes, and before you can say Right Wing Radical, they may even be shooting at the wolves from their snowmobiles too!

  3. avatar Chuck Parker says:

    In Alaska, real men don’t shoot wolves (and bears) from snowmobiles–that’s too challenging–they use planes.

  4. It’s very unclear what this ruling actually means to the present. So much time and money has been wasted on all sides.

    To think, Cheney got involved in forcing the NPS to keep Sylvan Pass opened. Now what?

    No one is sure what any of this reverts to …

    As for the effect on wildlife, it may be negligible. Presumably, the roads will still be groomed, and snow coaches will still use them. The wildlife heavy Northern Range will still have those of us in automobiles going over plowed roads. The air at the edges of Yellowstone will still stink from all the snowmobiles in the national forests.

    I’ve often wondered why this debate stirred the passions it has. For so long, it’s been a choice between monopolized snow coach interests and their quasi-environmentalist allies and the selfish motorized recreational industry. If people want to talk about access to Yellowstone in the winter, then we need to have a real conversation about who is left out of the Yellowstone experience (in winter and summer) and not reduce it to these groups. If people want to pretend that there is some environmentally pure choice, they are crazy.

    I personally hate snowmobiles and going into West Yellowstone in the winter only to smell that awful air and hear their roar and dodge them on the streets. But, this decision does little to settle the issue or to take us to the serious questions that are affecting the wildlife and environment in Yellowstone. What a waste of time this issue has been while the government slaughters buffalo, “manages” wolves, etc.

    I’m hopeful that maybe there won’t be snowmobiles in Yellowstone this winter, but I don’t know what a big difference it makes, really, when it’s all said and done. I’m fearful that it will drag on and on, distracting us from the systemic problems with Yellowstone as such.

  5. avatar Chuck Parker says:

    It’s not “unclear” what the ruling means; it’s very clear–no snowmobiles this winter. Unfortunately, Park County and the State of Wyoming are suing to keep Yellowstone open for snowmoblies in a different case that will be tried by Judge Brimmer at a federal court in Wyoming. When Brimmer says “yes” to snowmobiles–that’s a foregone conclusion–I don’t know what happens next. One way or another though, Bush and Cheney are going to find a way to keep Yellowstone open for snowmobiles this winter.

    I think the reason there’s been so much passion about snowmobiles in Yellowstone, is that people regard the snow white park in winter as something pristine. We’ve been watching snowmobiles defile the park for 30 years, and it’s like watching a gang of bikers rape your 12 year old virgin daughter.

  6. What’s unclear, Chuck, is if it reverts back to the previous ROD. If so, does it mean that snowmobiles are in a phase out process, or are they gone? If gone, good, but I don’t think that this does much for the snow. Studies I saw from one scientist suggest that snow coaches are just as dirty – if slightly less, than not much more. If visitation jumps as a result of people wanting access one way or the other, it doesn’t change anything. Vehicular traffic in the north is higher and higher all the time.

    I’m not a snowmobile proponent by any means; I just think the issue misses the mark; the proponents and opponents often frame the issue in the wrong ways. GYC, for instance, has openly called for snow coaches, though their use and the way they are managed is objectionable on several fronts. The recreational industry acts as if there is some ironclad right that they have a niche to enjoy the park – as if denying the mode of enjoyment in “benefit and enjoyment of the people” prevents any enjoyment. Then, there is the whole notion of privilege that wreaks beneath the surface of this.

    Anyhow, I could go on … I am seeing how much this issue is exploding on national papers this morning, how blogs are lighting up with conversation, and I don’t think it really means much in the end, though a black eye on the recreation industry would be a welcome sight to me.

  7. avatar outsider says:

    chuck, thats a disgusting statement, If you really feel that those two items are similar you need some help getting your priorities stright. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has and will take offense to that statement, it would be in ralphs and this websites best interest to take it down and maybe put “chuck” on probation.

  8. avatar April Clauson says:

    outsider Says:
    September 16, 2008 at 8:23 am

    chuck, thats a disgusting statement, If you really feel that those two items are similar you need some help getting your priorities stright. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has and will take offense to that statement, it would be in ralphs and this websites best interest to take it down and maybe put “chuck” on probation.

    ______
    I do not see any problem with his statement, it is true, a little blunt for a comparison, but Yellowstone is a pristine , natural area that has been more or less raped and abused by all humans, cars, boats, snowmobiles etc….just like every other national treasure we have. I think limit, yes limit the amount of people each year that can go there, and that may make a difference, and more enforcement of the park rules too! The statement above made by Chuck, in my opinion does not warrant a ban…..

  9. avatar Chuck Parker says:

    Outsider–Sorry to offend your sensibilities. Read any snowmobile literature, and you’ll quickly learn that they love blasting into “virgin” snow. That might be O.K. in Minnesota, or on the Shoshone National Forest, but Yellowstone National Park? For years, off-road sidehilling by snowmobilers in Yellowstone was such a problem the NPS had to criss-cross snowstakes on every hillside to fence out snowmobiler and keep them from going bonkers. On dozens of occassions, I’ve seen tracks where snowmobilers went off road to deface pristine meadows. They knew it was illegal. But there was more to it than that. I’d say their attitude wasn’t just screw the rules, it was screw the park and to hell with the sissies who go ga-ga about the beauty of Yellowstone in winter. Snowmobilers wanted to debase the park. Snowmobilers might as well have gone into the Smithsonian and pissed on a Picasso.

    Former Superintendent John Townsley, a true champion of snowmobiling in Yellowstone, was so fat and lazy he wouldn’t park his snowmobile on the road and

  10. avatar Ter says:

    I am as in favor of keeping our National Parks as pristine as we can as the next person, however, I do not think that eliminating snowmobiles from Yellowstone is the way to do that.

    Travelling the park by snowmobile is one of the few ways to enjoy Yellowstone in the winter. I live in West Yellowstone year-round. I like snowmobiles. I own one. Eliminating snowmobiles from the park in the wintertime would not only limit access to snowcoaches (which I can’t afford to ride in) but it would also devastate the local economy, which depends very heavily on snowmobile activity. For those of you that oppose snowmobiling in our national parks, what would you suggest we do to make up the difference?

    All of the snowmobiles currently allowed in Yellowstone in the winter have to be guided. They also have to be the best available technology. I was lucky enough to catch a ride in on a snowmobile tour last winter. There was no hazing of wildlife. In fact, the guide I went with was very respectful of the resource and also very knowledgeable. I learned a lot and had a wonderful time. Our tour stuck to the roads, and was surprisingly quiet.

    I fail to understand how allowing snowmobiles into Yellowstone, whether it be 250 or 540 per day, affects the park more than the unlimited number of vehicles allowed in it each day in the summer time. In my experience, Yellowstone summer visitors create far more noise and disruption to the environment than the winter ones do.

    Yellowstone National Park is a valuable national resource – yes. It should be preserved unimpaired for future generations – yes. However, it is not a wilderness area. Regluated snowmobiling is one of the ways citizens can enjoy the park in the snow, and a way that guides and employees can share the beauty of Yellowstone in the winter. Why should it not continue?

  11. avatar frank mayfield says:

    What is the benefit of allowing snowmobiles, though? Is there a benefit? I can’t see it. Get off the vehicle and walk.

  12. avatar Chuck Parker says:

    “Eliminating snowmobiles from the park in the wintertime would not only limit access to snowcoaches (which I can’t afford to ride in) but it would also devastate the local economy, which depends very heavily on snowmobile activity. For those of you that oppose snowmobiling in our national parks, what would you suggest we do to make up the difference?”

    You can afford a $9000 snowmobile that’s a recreational toy, plus $$$ thousands of dollars worth of accessories, plus a $30,000 four-wheel drive truck to tow your toy snowmobile, but you can’t afford to ride a snowcoach? OK. Helmets that cut the noise from snowmobiles to a level that won’t cause permanent hearing damage cost $400, and that will buy you how many snowcoach tickets?

    Does the public have an obligation to spend millions every year to support snowmobiling in Yellowstone Park for the benefit of private business outside the park? We the people cut funding for $40 million a year on roads to nowhere on the Tongass National Forest, and certain special politicians are very proud of cutting funding for a “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska that would have been great for the local economy.

  13. avatar JEFF E says:

    Would someone tell me outside of some search and rescue operations and backcountry communities ability to exist in the winter, what the hell good is a snowmobile anyway??
    Or for that matter a “personal watercraft”?

  14. avatar outsider says:

    Jeff apprently you have never really ridden one, they are a lot of fun to buzz around on, most go from 0-70 in nothing flat.

    Chuck and April, yellowstone is not your own private playground, it does belong to all of us. Plus as many of you have pointed out its “public” property so we the public can use it, as long as we obey rules.

  15. avatar frank mayfield says:

    They may be fun, but what benefit do they serve? Please, tell me.

  16. avatar JEFF E says:

    Outsider,
    I have never ridden one at all. Lived in snow country my whole life and had/have zero use for them.
    Again what the hell good are they for anything.

  17. avatar timz says:

    I have a friend who has been snowmobiling up there for over 20 years and has never gone in the park. He says there are plenty of trails and places to go without entering the park itself.

  18. avatar chuck parker says:

    Snowmobiles are a “lot of fun to buzz around on, most go from 0-70 in nothing flat.”

    Perfect!!!! No bleeding heart liberal enviromentilist could state the snowmobiler/ORV attitude more perfectly. Carnival rides are fun, too, that doesn’t mean we should turn Yellowstone National Park into an amusement park or a Disneyland side show or a go-cart track.

  19. avatar outsider says:

    I guess they are just good for us fat lazy people to get out and see our public lands in the winter, by the way us fat lazy people also use 4 wheelers to do the same in the summer 😉

  20. avatar Barb says:

    You should think about getting off the snowmobile and use your own God-given “renewable energy.” It would be good for you and the planet 🙂 Win – Win!

  21. avatar Ter says:

    Chuck –
    For record, I bought my snowmobile used (look at that, recycling!!), and don’t have a snowmobile trailer for the simple fact that I live in West Yellowstone and don’t need one. I not only use my snowmobile for pleasure, but also for transportation around town during the long winters. $400 will buy be approximately 4 snowcoach tickets. Whereas a helmet I can use again and again. And yes, snowmobiles ARE fun. I really enjoy them. And I actually cannot take my own snowmobile into the park if I want to go. I have to use one from a guiding service approved by the park.
    Have any of you ever tried to walk into Yellowstone in the winter? Even skiing, it takes a long time to get anywhere. Try it this winter and let me know how it goes.

    Again, and I am repeating myself, Yellowstone is a national treasure that everyone should be able to enjoy if they choose. Snowmobiles are a great way to enjoy it, as long as they are properly regulated. I love to feel the wind whipping past me. I feel so much more in touch with the outside world than when inside a snowcoach. I often ride my bike into the park in the summer for the same reason. It is very frustrating to be able to enjoy Yellowstone in the summer, but to have such limited access in the winter as a local resident.
    Has anyone seen or know of a comparative study that’s been done on the effects of summer traffic versus winter traffic? I’d be very interested to read it.

  22. avatar Ter says:

    Oh, and I drive a Subaru Forester and frequently get over 30 miles to the gallon. Not a $30,000 four-wheel drive truck. 🙂

  23. avatar April Clauson says:

    outsider Says:
    September 16, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Jeff apprently you have never really ridden one, they are a lot of fun to buzz around on, most go from 0-70 in nothing flat.

    Chuck and April, yellowstone is not your own private playground, it does belong to all of us. Plus as many of you have pointed out its “public” property so we the public can use it, as long as we obey rules.
    __________________________
    Never said keep every one out but myself, just that to limit the daily amount of folks would help the situation all around. What is wrong with that? say only let 10,000 cars a day in, camping folks not included. so say there is an average of 4-6 people in those cars, using 6 per car that is 60,000 folks in the park per day that are day trippers. then add in the camping folks, maybe another 20,000?? that is a decent amount of folks, but not as much traffic, noise etc, wildlife disruption, for the summer months. As far as winter goes, ski, take the bus, walk, etc….but I think snowmobiles with guides that stay on the roads and are quite are ok, but no way do I want them to be allowed in without a guide and rules, just like the ATV group, they do not adhere to the rules, they go off trail and destroy meadows, etc….I have seen it for years now….Too many folks that go to the park now are folks that have no idea about wildlife, have no respect, can not even read or speak English so how can a pamphlet at the gate help?

  24. avatar chuck parker says:

    Snowmobiles are fun? I confess I used to ride them in the park, but it sure wasn’t any fun. You had to wear earplugs and a helmet to protect you ears, so you couldn’t hear anything. To keep warm, you had to wear so many clothes you look and feel like a blimp–it ain’t easy to walk or move around, and when you do you quickly overheat. The NPS spends millions trying to smooth the moguls (bumps) created by snowmobiles, but it’s a lost cause-riding in the park is just wham, jolt, smash for mile after mile until you make it to the chiropractor’s office. So, the overall experience is that you can’t hear, you’re trapped in bulky clothes, and you get physically smashed as you ride along–I reckon that’s fun if you’re a masochist, but I’m not.

  25. avatar April Clauson says:

    Snowmobiles are fun? I confess I used to ride them in the park, but it sure wasn’t any fun. You had to wear earplugs and a helmet to protect you ears, so you couldn’t hear anything. To keep warm, you had to wear so many clothes you look and feel like a blimp–it ain’t easy to walk or move around, and when you do you quickly overheat. The NPS spends millions trying to smooth the moguls (bumps) created by snowmobiles, but it’s a lost cause-riding in the park is just wham, jolt, smash for mile after mile until you make it to the chiropractor’s office. So, the overall experience is that you can’t hear, you’re trapped in bulky clothes, and you get physically smashed as you ride along–I reckon that’s fun if you’re a masochist, but I’m not.
    __________________
    X2 on that one Chuck!

  26. avatar Save bears says:

    There are a lot of things in life, I don’t find fun, but others do, what bearing does that have on the choice to let sleds in the park or not?

  27. avatar chuck parker says:

    For the pro-snowmobilers: if snowmobiles are ok in Yellowstone, should we get rid of the ban on snowmobiles in Glacier, Yosemite, and other national parks?

  28. avatar JB says:

    Okay, I have never driven a snowmobile, but I am NOT anti-snowmobile…even in the National Parks. Snowmobiles are problematic because (1) they’re extremely loud, (2) they pollute, (3) people use them in a reckless/careless manner. The first two issues could be addressed through innovation–there are currently several prototypes for electric snowmobiles that are both quiet and don’t pollute. Addressing the third issue simply requires additional regulation (and possibly, enforcement).

    Personally, I love the idea of using a snowmobile to access areas that I could not get to on foot without tremendous effort. I’ve never done it because I hate the noise and fumes associated with snowmobiles. But if I could ride quietly into the backcountry without the stink and pollution…well, that would be outstanding!

    I also understand that some areas will need to be off limits to protect wildlife and I don’t have a problem with this. Moreover, if Parks like Yellowstone find it isn’t cost effective to stay open for snowmobiles in the winter, than I have no problem with them closing or having shortened seasons. If the worry is conflict with CC skiers, then you regulate the use (e.g. Sunday-Tuesday is for snowmobiles, Wed-Sat for skiers). A little common sense can go a loooong way. 🙂

  29. avatar Save bears says:

    JB,

    The BAT snowmobiles are a lot quieter, as well as not the smelly smoke belching monsters of the past, nor are they 0-70 in 10 second machines of the past…but I also agree, I would like to see the electric machines, they are pretty cool, with little or no impact from touring, which is what is the regulations in Yellowstone..I think they would work quite well for this purpose..

  30. avatar JB says:

    Save bears Says: “There are a lot of things in life, I don’t find fun, but others do, what bearing does that have on the choice to let sleds in the park or not?”

    I don’t know… Personally, I think football is a big…nay, a HUGE waste of our nation’s time and resources. Seems to me the only reasonable solution is to ban the playing of football for all time. Now, I need make sure that the OSU faithful don’t read this, as I’m fairly certain I could be thrown out of Ohio for what I’ve just written. Some people just don’t appreciate sarcasm. 😉

  31. avatar Ryan says:

    “Would someone tell me outside of some search and rescue operations and backcountry communities ability to exist in the winter, what the hell good is a snowmobile anyway??
    Or for that matter a “personal watercraft”?”

    Because its fun, the way I see it you seem to feel that everyone should think like you. Whats the difference between driving a car into Yellowstone in the summer and riding a snowmobile in the winter. Both require approved trails roads etc. I know you may enjoy life on the slow side, but others enjoy there free time a bit more speed driven.

  32. avatar Ryan says:

    JB,

    Almost all new snowmobiles are 4stroke, much more efficient and quieter. They have made the same progression the modern car has.

  33. avatar chuck parker says:

    “Whats the difference between driving a car into Yellowstone in the summer and riding a snowmobile in the winter.”

    For one thing, bison can go anywhere they want in summer, but it’s tough getting around in winter, so they use hard-packed roads, which creates conflicts with snowmobilers. I realize chasing bison off the roads is great fun for snowmobilers–some seem to take sadistic pleasure in it–but I doubt the bison think it’s a pleasant experience. To the bison, it doesn’t matter if you’re being harassed and bullied by people on 2 stroke snowmobiles, or people on 4-stroke snowmobiles.

  34. avatar Save bears says:

    Well Chuck, with the guide restrictions in place, it seems that harassing Bison has been cut down dramatically….

    Of course on the other side of the coin, there are several groups out there that cite that the groomed roads are not used by the bison, anymore than the rest of the area…

    Which science are we to believe???

  35. avatar chuck parker says:

    Save bears–evidently, you’ve never ridden a snowmobile in yellowstone in winter. The roads are narrow, and berms pushed up to keep snowmobilers from going off road make it difficult for bison to get out of the road when they have a dust off with snowmobilers. You’re dangerously close. You’re less than 20 feet away. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb.

    Dumb to get that close to a bison when you’re on foot or on a Harley or in a car or on a your snowmobile. Not to mention it’s rude behavior toward the poor bision.

  36. avatar April Clauson says:

    Here is a video, shows buffalo on the road, snowmobile’s right next to them, and the one bull does not look happy, and the snowmobiles are loud, and they look like the newer ones…Just so everyone can see…hope the link works

  37. avatar chuck parker says:

    Save Bears–Do you want snowmobiles in Glacier? Yes/No? If snowmobiles are so fine in Yellowstone, why not let them ride up the Going to the Sun Road on the west side of Glacier until avalanche danger becomes an issue? No problems with bison or elk because there are none. How about the North Fork Road from Polebridge to Kintla Lake? Let the snowmobilers have their fun. Sell gas and open a hot dog stand.

  38. avatar JB says:

    To reiterate, a little common sense….

  39. avatar JEFF E says:

    Ryan,
    I ask a question, maybe rhetorical, and not really even a “in the park question”. no I guess it was really a contrast and comparison. considering every thing that it takes to produce a snowmobile compared to what they are used for 99% of the time,
    what the hell good are they.
    Just to clarify I own a 4×4 used to hunt, camp, and in my business, in that order, a Triumph Rocket III that I am pretty sure will smoke anything you want to edge up to the starting line that is street legal, and a 2004 Polaris 700 that I bought new off the showroom floor. It has 50 miles on the ticker. I use it to retrieve big game animals as allowed by law during hunting season.

    You can think any way you want about any given subject.
    good luck with that.

  40. avatar chuck parker says:

    Snowmobiles are very useful for searching for the bodies of snowmobilers killed after they trigger avalanches while “high marking.” High marking is a game snowmobilers play by seeing who can climb the highest up a steep mountain side. You twist the throttle and hang on. Doesn’t take a high IQ and it’s not exactly a test of your athletic ability, but some people think it’s fun. Others think, Darwin award.

  41. avatar vicki says:

    If people want an adrenaline rush, maybe they should go to spain and run with the bulls….that’s smart too!(Sarcasm intended.) You can lead a very exciting life without snowmobiles. Usually longer if you practice some common sense. Maybe try donating blood, being poked with the needle provides a good rush, and you’d be saving a life…that should cause a real rush. (No sarcasm intended.)

  42. avatar Barb says:

    Great, snowmobiles have a useful purpose then. Then BAN them from Yellowstone and other national parks unless someone is missing or in trouble. Use them as safety vehicles, not “recreational” vehicles.

  43. avatar JB says:

    I give. Have at it.

  44. avatar vicki says:

    there is a difference between touring on a low impact snowmobile and revin’ up the horses and letting it fly…yes, common sense is key.
    If there are boundaries, great. but enforce them. let the monies raised by ..yep I am saying it..earmarked for land purchases for bison conservation.

  45. avatar Save bears says:

    Chuck,

    I don’t have a problem with sleds in Glacier, I think they could be used responsibly….by the way, there are plenty of elk in Glacier…I was up there about three weeks ago and saw over 50 in the Apgar area, it was a nice herd with a really nice 7×7 bull..

  46. avatar Save bears says:

    By the way Chuck, I have rode Snowmobiles in Yellowstone, actually quite a few times in the course of the work I do…

  47. avatar chuck parker says:

    Snowmobiles in Glacier? If you proposed a plan for them to use the Going To The Sun Road on the west side of the park, all the rangers and naturalists living at park HQ in West Glacier would go crazy because you’d ruin their x-c skiing. The admin staff would object due to the cost of grooming, law enforcement, and the expense and difficulty of plowing a hard-packed road in spring. The local public–Whitefish, Kalispell, etc.–would go ballistic. The Hungry Horse News and Kalispell Daily InterLake would write editorials asking, why create the same problems in Glacier that they have in Yellowstone? Why make the same mistake? The idea of snowmobilers behaving responsibly would get a lot of laughs and people would recount the infamous incident where Glacier Park ranger Art Sedlak shot a snowmobile that flaunted the no snowmobiles in Glacier National Park rule.

    Elk at Apgar in the fall? Sure. Elk at Lake McDonald Lodge and beyond in winter? No.

  48. avatar Save bears says:

    Chuck,

    I am not a proponent or a anti for snowmobiles, I used them for a job, I don’t use them for recreation..but my statement was pure hypothetical, as we would never have sleds in Glacier, and I really don’t know of many who want them..

    Really, myself personally could care less if we have sleds in Yellowstone either, but I think the NPS needs to get things under control and come up with something that works, if that is no snowmobiles fine, I am good with that, if they are going to allow them, I am fine with that, but this back and forth that costs us millions, is getting ridiculous!

    It does not seem to matter which plan is proposed, a judge somewhere throws it out and we have to start over, again, costing us money!

  49. avatar chuck parker says:

    According to a story in today’s Billing’s Gazette, Judge Sullivan’s ruling means no snowmobiles or snowcoaches:

    Lewis said she has been meeting since Monday with members of the Department of the Interior, the Department of Justice and the Park Service to explore options for Yellowstone’s winter season, which starts Dec. 15.

    As it stands now, the 2007 record of decision on winter use was set aside by Sullivan, so the Park Service must rely on a 2004 rule that was part of a temporary winter use plan, Lewis said.

    That plan allowed for motorized over-snow travel only through 2007, meaning that, until a new course forward is found, there is no plan in place allowing for snow coaches or snowmobiles in the park this winter, she said.

Calendar

September 2008
S M T W T F S
« Aug   Oct »
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

Quote

‎"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

%d bloggers like this: