Yellowstone & Grand Teton Winter Use Plans Final Environmental Impact Statement Released
Contact: Al Nash, 307-344-2010
Contact: Jackie Skaggs, 307-739-3393
National Park Service
Grand Teton National Park
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A new long-term plan to guide management of winter use in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Memorial Parkway has been completed and released to the public.
The goal of the Winter Use Plans Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) is to implement a long-term winter use plan that ensures park visitors have a range of appropriate winter recreation opportunities that do not impair or irreparably harm park resources or values.
Changes would not be implemented until the 2008-2009 winter season. The National Park Service expects operations to continue this winter under essentially the same rules that were in effect the past three winters. Yellowstone and Grand Teton will open for the 2007-2008 winter season on December 19 as scheduled.
The revised preferred alternative would allow fewer snowmobiles in Yellowstone in the future than were allowed during the last three winters. However, it would provide for an increase in use from last winter’s average of 290 snowmobiles a day. Five hundred forty Best Available Technology (BAT) snowmobiles and eighty-three snowcoaches would be allowed per day in Yellowstone. All snowmobiles and snowcoaches would be 100% commercially guided. Mandatory guiding has addressed most of the concerns regarding the impacts of historic, unregulated winter use.
The revised preferred alternative calls for the first four miles of the road west of the park’s East Entrance to be groomed for motorized oversnow travel, to allow the drop-off of individuals who want to ski or snowshoe. Motorized oversnow travel over Sylvan Pass would be eliminated after this winter. The National Park Service has determined it is an unacceptable risk to use the howitzer like we have in the past or to continue use of the helicopter as we have in the past for avalanche control over a recreational transportation corridor that has historically been utilized by no more than 5,000 people a winter.
In Grand Teton and the Parkway, grooming and motorized oversnow travel on the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail (CDST) between Moran Junction and Flagg Ranch would be discontinued under the revised preferred alternative. However, those interested in through travel on the CDST could transport their snowmobiles on trailers between these locations. Commercial options to transport snowmobiles between these locations may be available.
Twenty-five snowmobiles a day would be allowed to travel on the Grassy Lake Road under the revised preferred alternative. There would be no BAT or guiding requirement on the Grassy Lake Road. Forty unguided, BAT snowmobiles a day would 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 would be required to meet BAT emission and sound level requirements.
Implementing the revised preferred alternative would help ensure air quality standards and personal exposure goals are met, better address sound impacts, and minimize wildlife encounters. It would also provide the potential for economic growth for communities serving winter visitors to the parks, and is responsive to public comments.
The National Park Service believes that the limited, managed use of both BAT snowmobiles and snowcoaches for oversnow travel provides for a wide range of visitor experiences without impairing the integrity of park resources or values in full compliance with the Organic Act, the NPS Management Polices (2006) and the Clean Air Act.
The superintendents of Yellowstone and Grand Teton will use the analysis and recommendations contained in the Final EIS to make a final recommendation to the National Park Service Intermountain Regional Director regarding the direction of winter use in the Greater Yellowstone Area park units.
The Regional Director makes the final decision, and can choose the revised preferred alternative or any combination of management approaches addressed in the Final EIS. The Regional Director is expected to issue the Record of Decision (ROD) in early to mid November.
A rule to implement the Record of Decision must then be published in the Federal Register in order to allow the parks to open for the winter 2007-2008 season as scheduled on December 19, 2007.
All the alternatives in the Final EIS call for a transition year. In Yellowstone, this means up to 720 commercially guided BAT snowmobiles a day would be allowed to enter the park during the winter of 2007-2008. Yellowstone intends to 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 would be allowed this winter. Most of the snowmobiles would have to meet BAT requirements. Access to the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail, Grassy Lake Road, Jackson Lake, and adjacent public and private lands would continue under the same regulations used the past three winters.
The Final EIS 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. It is also available on CD or 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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