Winter Use Decision for Yellowstone and Grand Teton
Contact: Rick Frost, Intermountain Region, 303-987-6732
Contact: Al Nash, Yellowstone, 307-344-2015
Contact: Jackie Skaggs, Grand Teton, 307-739-3393
National Park Service
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Rick Frost, National Park Service Intermountain Region (303) 987-6732
WINTER USE DECISION FOR YELLOWSTONE AND GRAND TETON
Snowmobile and Snowcoach access over Sylvan Pass to continue
A decision on a long-term plan to guide management of winter use in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway was signed today by Mike Snyder, Director of the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service.
This Record of Decision (ROD) calls for changes in winter use in the parks beginning with the 2008-2009 winter season. It implements most elements of the preferred alternative in the Final Environmental Impact Statement released in late September.
"I’m confident we have a long-term plan to protect these special places and provide a high quality visitor experience while ensuring the safety of visitors and park employees," said Snyder.
This decision provides for operations to continue this winter under essentially the same rules that were in effect the past three winters, with changes in operations beginning next year, with the 2008-2009 winter season.
The decision will allow fewer snowmobiles in Yellowstone in the future. Five hundred forty (540) Best Available Technology (BAT) snowmobiles and eighty-three (83) snowcoaches will be allowed per day in Yellowstone, starting with the winter of 2008-2009. The use of BAT machines substantially reduces air and noise emissions compared to those emitted by most snowmobiles. All snowmobiles and snowcoaches will be 100% commercially guided; which reduces conflicts with wildlife, improves safety for all, and also helps to address historic noise and air pollution concerns.
The decision calls for Sylvan Pass to remain open to motorized oversnow travel. Yellowstone will use a combined helicopter and howitzer program to conduct avalanche control operations this winter.
Beginning with the 2008-2009 winter season, snowmobile and snowcoach travel over Sylvan Pass will be allowed when full avalanche forecasting indicates travel through the pass is safe. The pass will be closed to all travel when full avalanche forecasting shows travel is unsafe, and will reopen to travel only when weather conditions improve and full avalanche forecasting indicates the danger has subsided.
The National Park Service will work with the State of Wyoming, Park County, Wyoming and the Town of Cody to seek a consensus approach to avalanche mitigation by June 1, 2008, to provide alternate ways for safe motorized oversnow access over Sylvan Pass.
In Grand Teton and the Parkway, grooming and motorized oversnow travel on the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail (CDST) between Moran Junction and Flagg Ranch will be discontinued. However, those interested in through travel on the CDST could transport their snowmobiles on trailers between these locations.
Twenty-five (25) snowmobiles a day will be allowed to travel on the Grassy Lake Road, with no BAT or guiding requirement. Forty unguided, BAT snowmobiles a day will be allowed on Jackson Lake to facilitate ice fishing by those possessing appropriate fishing gear and a valid State of Wyoming fishing license.
Beginning with the 2011-2012 season, all snowcoaches operating in the parks will be required to meet BAT emission and sound level requirements. This requirement, like that for snowmobiles, is intended to further improve air quality and soundscape protection.
"This decision is responsive to public comments and in full compliance with the 2006 National Park Service Management Policies. It addresses sound impacts, ensures air quality standards are met, and minimizes wildlife encounters," Snyder added. "Working with the community, we’ve also found a way to manage Sylvan Pass access while addressing visitor and employee safety concerns."
The National Park Service plans to publish a Final Rule to implement this Record of Decision in the Federal Register in the very near future, and expects the parks to open for the winter 2007-2008 season as scheduled on December 19, 2007.
Operations will continue this winter under essentially the same rules that were in effect the past three winters.
In Yellowstone, this means up to 720 commercially guided BAT snowmobiles a day will be allowed to enter the park during the winter of 2007-2008. Yellowstone will conduct avalanche control operations this winter to allow motorized oversnow travel on the East Entrance road across Sylvan Pass. Methods used to reduce the risk of avalanche control operations this winter may result in longer temporary closures between the detection of avalanche risk and the reopening of Sylvan Pass to motorized oversnow travel compared to historic avalanche control operations.
In Grand Teton and the Parkway, 140 snowmobiles a day will be allowed this winter. Most of the snowmobiles will have to meet BAT requirements. Access to the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail, Grassy Lake Road, Jackson Lake, and adjacent public and private lands will continue under the same regulations used the past three winters.
The Record of Decision and the Winter Use Plans Final Environmental Impact Statement can be found at the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/documentsList.cfm?parkId=111&projectId=12047 The ROD is also available in hard copy by writing the Winter Use Planning Team, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190. Document requests may also be made by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; by calling 307-344-2019 during normal business hours; or by sending a request by fax to 307-344-2025.
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