Conservation groups lose big-time on YNP snowmobiles for this winter

720 snowmobiles a day for Yellowstone Park this winter-

A month ago there was a question whether there would be any snowmobiling at all this winter in Yellowstone after a victory by conservation groups in DC Federal Court.

Then the groups agreed to a temporary plan for 318 snowmobiles a day. However, a ruling by Wyoming’s Federal Judge Clarence Brimmer allowed the Park Service to restore levels to 720 snowmobiles a day, a figure not seen since 2004.

Park to go with 720 sleds per day. By Cory Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

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Update: you should read Jim McDonald’s comment on this post.

Here is another story on it from Wyoming File dot com. Wyoming Ruling Complicates Snowmobile Scene, Pro-Snowmobile Group Declares Victory. 11/17/2008. By Brodie Farquhar






  1. April Clauson Avatar
    April Clauson

    What a joke our legal process has become, one judge pass a law, another judge screws it up, it all comes down to the folks in the neighboring towns whining that they will not be able to make a living with out it, sorry, 300 a day was good enough, plenty of other trails in the surrounding areas they can use. Yep, money talks for sure! I hope the judge can overturn it like mentioned…

  2. Buffaloed Avatar

    Wasn’t the 2004 plan thrown out too?

  3. Jim Macdonald Avatar

    Okay, it’s complicated.

    Judge Sullivan threw out the 540 regulation on the basis that it didn’t conform with the science.

    Then, Yellowstone pushes for 318 as a temporary rule.

    Then, Judge Brimmer ruled he couldn’t overturn what Judge Sullivan ruled in overruling the 540 but ordered that Yellowstone revert back to the 2004 rule (720) until they came up with a rule – even though the 2004 rule had expired.

    So, Yellowstone has decided to go back to the 720 rule and is not pushing for 318 as a temporary rule but instead is continuing to push for it as part of a new permanent plan.

    This is what I think will play out:

    The environmental groups will go back to Judge Sullivan for an injunction. Sullivan will grant it because it violates the reasoning in his initial order. That will mean that there will be no snowmobiles or snowcoaches this winter.

    Depending on the timing of that ruling, the other groups will go back to Judge Brimmer, who may or may not be powerless to stop it. My hunch is that he won’t be able to stop it in time for a new rule to be published.

    This may be the final death throe of snowmobiling in Yellowstone, and perhaps that’s the way NPS is playing it. They chose to try and follow both rulings, which is what one would expect them to do. What really surprised me is that they aren’t pushing fast for the 318 temporary rule to replace the 720 rule so that they would be in full compliance of both courts. That will certainly lead them to lose in Judge Sullivan’s court. Without one winter of snowmobiling in Yellowstone, it may be hard to bring them back under whatever rule replaces this.

    That’s just my sense of what’s happening following this story and its politics closely.

    But, it comes down to timing, I think.

  4. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    Good ol’ Judge Brimmer–always finds a way to rule in favor of an extractive or commercial interest on public lands!


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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