New Emissions Limits Issued for Yellowstone N.P.
The National Park Service (NPS) has established a new regulation to phase in new air and sound emission requirements for snowmobiles and snowcoaches operating in the Yellowstone National Park, and has changed the way it counts the number of such vehicles allowed in the park. The regulation went into effect Nov. 22. The new regulations are being hailed by some as a historic event that could end decades of conflict on the topic.
The new regulation replaces the former concept of a fixed maximum number of vehicles allowed in the park each day with a new, more flexible concept of "transportation events." A transportation event is defined as "one group of snowmobiles (maximum group size of 10, seasonal average of seven beginning in the 2015-2016 season) or one snowcoach," and allows larger group sizes "if commercial tour operators use vehicles that meet voluntary enhanced emission standards." Within an allowable number of transportation events, commercial tour operators have the opportunity to combine snowcoach and snowmobile trips in a way that protects park resources and provides flexibility to respond to fluctuations in visitation demand.
Up to 110 total transportation events are authorized each day. Commercial tour operators may decide whether to use their daily allocation for snowmobiles or snowcoaches, but no more than 50 transportation events each day may be comprised of snowmobiles, the new regulation states. Up to 46 of the 50 allowable snowmobile transportation events may be commercially guided and up to four may be non-commercially guided. In either case, all snowmobile transportation events must be led by a guide.
The NPS says this regulation reflects a "new management paradigm" which it plans to implement over the next four winter seasons, beginning with 2013-2014, so the park and tour operators can adjust to the new emission requirements and the new method of managing vehicles by transportation events.
The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) asked the NPS to require snowmobiles to adopt "Best Available Technology," emissions standards during the 2015-2016 season, instead of the 2017-2018 season as originally proposed. The NPS agreed to this change, noting that snowmobiles and snowcoaches that meet the new emission standards are already available.
More information about the new regulation can be found at the Current Management and Planning section of Yellowstone's web site: http://www.nps.gov/yell/parkmgmt/currentmgmt.htm