The state of Wyoming, as expected, has gone to federal court in a bid to boost daily snowmobile numbers in Yellowstone National Park to 720.
The park is operating this winter and next under temporary rules that allow 318 snowmobiles and 78 snowcoaches to enter the park per day. At the same time, park planners are working on the fourth environmental impact statement of the past decade to try to arrive at a legally defensible and environmentally sound winter-use plan.
On Friday, Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal called the temporary guidelines an "unacceptable pattern of limiting public access to the public's lands."
“This rule fails the eyeball test. The Park Service itself has determined a significantly higher number of snowmobiles can be allowed into the Park without harm, but yet they settle on 318 a day,” the Democrat said. “We all agree Yellowstone needs to be protected. But what the Park Service is proposing is incompatible with its own findings.”
According to the governor, Park Service studies themselves have stated that snowmobile use during the past five years showed that even with twice the daily limit resources would not be adversely impacted.
“The Park Service needs to balance its duty to protect Yellowstone against its obligation to help as much of the public enjoy the park as possible," said Governor Freudenthal. "They have failed to do that when their own research shows no harm from 700 snowmobiles and then they set the limit to 318.”
In its lawsuit the state of Wyoming asks that the interim rules be set aside and the 2004 temporary rule, which allowed up to 720 snowmobiles per day into Yellowstone, be reinstated. One of the state's two U.S. senators, Mike Enzi, earlier this fall said as many as 1,000 snowmobiles a day should be allowed into the park.