Final Yellowstone Winter Visitation Plan Released

Date:   October 22, 2013
Contact:   Tim Stevens, Northern Rockies Regional Director, National Parks Conservation Association: 406.222.2268; Mobile: 406.223.3137
Kati Schmidt, Senior Media Relations Manager, National Parks Conservation Association: 415.728.0840; Mobile: 415.847.1768
Kristen Brengel, Senior Director of Legislation and Policy, National Parks Conservation Association: 202.454.3380; Mobile: 202.320.2913

Final Yellowstone Winter Visitation Plan Released

National Park Service final winter use regulation guarantees a cleaner, quieter national park

Bozeman, MT -- Today, the National Park Service announced its final regulation governing snowmobile and snowcoach use in Yellowstone National Park. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) praised Superintendent Daniel Wenk and his staff for taking the time to actively engage the public and subsequently craft a proposal that significantly reduces air and noise pollution --finally providing Yellowstone with a truly cleaner and quieter winter season.

“Yellowstone National Park deserves the best protection available and should be a place where the National Park Service sets the strongest standards for pollution, noise, and visitor experiences,” said Theresa Pierno, acting President of NPCA. “We are pleased with the winter use regulation released today and commend Superintendent Wenk and the National Park Service for their tireless work to find a resolution to this longstanding issue.”

Yellowstone lost control over snowmobile use by the 1990s. Over the last decade, healthier winter conditions benefitting visitors and wildlife have prevailed in the park. Many visitors now come to Yellowstone in winter because of opportunities to experience and learn about its wonders without intrusive exhaust and noise from snowmobile traffic.

Under this new rule, vehicle traffic will increase from current conditions, but manufacturers and operators will be required to significantly cut noise and carbon monoxide emissions in order to operate snowmobiles and snowcoaches in the park.

“These are crucial requirements, particularly given the recent trend of noisier and dirtier park-approved snowmobiles,” said Tim Stevens, Regional Director for NPCA’s Northern Rockies office. “Reduced noise and carbon monoxide emissions coupled with travel at lower top speeds will better protect public safety, wildlife and visitor opportunities to enjoy the sounds of nature in Yellowstone.”

“Yellowstone is an iconic piece of America. The public has overwhelmingly called for its best protection over the last two decades,” said Kristen Brengel, NPCA’s Senior Director of Legislation and Policy. “This plan has come a long way and we believe it will provide the level of protection that Yellowstone deserves.”

Key elements of Yellowstone’s final rule on snowmobile and snowcoaches:

  • In 2015 and 2016, strict Best Available Technology (emissions and noise) standards for snowmobiles and snowcoaches, respectively, will be mandatory;
  • Explicitly states there will be no growth in the daily number of non-commercially-guided snowmobile groups;
  • Reiterates that under potential adaptive management changes, "no more than 50 transportation events each day may be comprised of snowmobiles;” and
  • Sets maximum speed limits of 35 mph for snowmobiles and 25 mph for snowcoaches.

While the plan will certainly result in a cleaner, quieter Yellowstone National Park during the winter season, there are nonetheless some parts that continue to trouble NPCA, including its insistence on keeping the unsafe east entrance open in the winter season and a new move to permit non-commercially guided snowmobile trips.

“NPCA will continue to seek improvements in winter use management as the plan is implemented. Those concerns aside, after 16 years of studies, meetings and public engagement, NPCA congratulates the National Park Service on a winter use plan that significantly improves the health of our nation’s first national park,” said Stevens.

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