From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 6 - May 9, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

National Park Service issues Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
Setback in Winter Use Plan offers new hope for snowmobilers.
by Kate Neely

National Park Service issues Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

As the fight to keep Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks open to snowmobiles continues, a major step has recently been taken by the National Park Service to make something happen. After a lawsuit was filed by the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) in regard to the way the National Park Service has been handling the proposed ban on snowmobiles in the two national parks, the settlement required the National Park Service to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to outline possible alternatives to the proposed snowmobile ban. After supposed careful preparation and intense measures to prepare this statement, it is now available to the public and contains four alternatives, for consideration. The document is currently circulating to generate public comment and opinion, however, its official completion is not expected until November of 2002.

The SEIS’s four alternatives are explained in a letter written by the Wyoming State Snowmobile Association (WSSA). The WSSA is an organization that fights to keep access open to snowmobiles on all public lands in Wyoming by communicating with local government, state and federal officials and Congress. According to this letter, dated April 15, here are the four proposed alternatives included in the SEIS:

Alternative 1A would put into effect last year’s ban adopted by the Clinton administration, meaning that this coming 2002-2003 winter season would be the last season that snowmobiles would be allowed in Yellowstone. And although snowmobiles would still be permitted for that season, the number of snowmobile entrances into the park would be cut by half.

Alternative 1B would see the same ban taking place, but rather than take effect this coming winter season, it would not take effect until a year later. This means that snowmobiles would not face massive restrictions until the 2003-2004 season, and the 50-percent cut would not occur until that time. A complete ban of snowmobiles in the park would take effect the winter of 2004-2005.

Alternative 2, which was drafted by the State of Wyoming, would allow future snowmobile access, with stricter requirements for emissions and sound. In addition, there would be increased levels of law enforcement throughout the park, and thorough visitor education would be required. Moreover, a reservation system would be implemented as a way to manage and control the total number of snowmobiles in the park. This alternative offers the greatest support and the greatest hope for snowmobiles being allowed to still use the parks as other tourists do, according to WSSA.

Finally, alternative 3 would again allow snowmobile access, yet the policies would be even more strict than those outlined in alternative 2. While still being allowed to take advantage of the park, all snowmobilers would be required to be accompanied by a guide, and only those rental sleds that are the property of the park would be permitted inside the park’s boundaries. These sleds meet even higher emission and sound standards than the standards proposed as a part of alternative 2. Additionally, as a part of this alternative, the snowmobile season would be cut short, ending the Friday after President’s Day weekend.

Already, the unofficial publication of this SEIS and its four alternatives has seemed to create a refreshed energy in those who actively stay tuned to what is going on in the overall debate. Letters have been written in support of specific alternatives. The public voice is seeming to be heard, and comments regarding the SEIS are greatly encouraged. The letter written by the WSSA states that "(i)t is critical (to) take the time to comment on this issue ... "

On another note, as a result of taking the time to create this requested SEIS, the National Park Service has experienced a setback in its development of Yellowstone’s Winter Use Plan, according to an article on the Yellowstone National Park website. According to the article, dated March 29.

Yellowstone’s Winter Use Plan was originally scheduled to take effect the winter season of 2002-2003 and outlined a mass-transit, snow-coach-only system that would be managed by the National Park Service, which would serve as the park’s primary mode of transportation. This would mean that come the winter season of 2002-2003, snowmobiles would no longer be allowed in the park. However, thanks to the newly developed SEIS and the setback it caused in the completion of the Winter Use Plan, nothing is yet set in stone, which ups the outlook for the future of snowmobiles in the parks.

Therefore, now is a crucial time to offer comments and opinions concerning this issue. It makes sense that the outcome of this SEIS would be influenced greatly by the public’s opinion, since it is the public that keeps Yellowstone National Park up and running. For more information regarding the SEIS or to find out how to become involved in the consideration of the SEIS’s four alternatives, write to or call the WSSA: P.O. Box 1858, Casper, WY 82602, (307)-733-7359; or visit the WSSA’s official website at For further current news relating to the parks, visit Yellowstone’s official website at

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