Yellowstone National Park officials, obviously looking to show some flexibility, are offering six alternatives for how best to manage winter-use in the park, ranging from plowing roads and phasing out snowmobiles in lieu of snowcoaches to completely prohibiting over-the-snow travel.
In what might be the longest attempt in National Park Service history to settle on a management tack that's both reasonable and legally defensible, park officials on Thursday released a wide-ranging list of draft alternatives for a winter-use plan that would apply to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
Debated vigorously, and costly, since the 2000 when the Clinton administration moved to phase out the use of recreational snowmobiling in Yellowstone and when the Bush administration quickly countered by calling for more review, the latest list of winter-use alternatives offers a little for everyone.
* There are alternatives that propose capping daily snowmobile and snowcoach use in the park;
* There are alternatives that proposed seasonal caps on the number of snowmobiles and snowcoaches that can enter Yellowstone;
* There are alternatives that would allow unguided snowmobile use;
* There's an alternative that would phase out snowmobile use in favor of snowcoach use;
* There's an alternative that would have some Yellowstone roads --those between West Yellowstone and Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful -- cleared of snow in the winter, and;
* There's even an alternative that would ban all snowmobile and snowcoach use in the park after next winter.
Yellowstone's planners built these alternatives after reviewing public comments received earlier this year during the scoping period. The six alternatives will be analyzed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which will be released for public review and comment sometime early next year.
If nothing else, Yellowstone officials are trying to cover all the bases on this issue that is moving into its second decade and which has already cost the National Park Service more than $10 million in research.
You can sift through the comments received during public scoping, and a newsletter
that describes the range of alternatives, on the National Park Service Planning, Environment, and Public Comment web site at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/yell , and click on Winter Use Plan; or by calling (307) 344-2019.
Yellowstone plans to host two online, one-hour "webinars" -- on August 3 and August 5 -- to provide the public with more information on the range of alternatives and to explain the ongoing winter planning process. In addition, the park plans to hold a one-hour conference call the same week, on August 4, for those who do not have computer access or who cannot participate in either of the webinars.
The webinars are scheduled for Tuesday, August 3, 7-8 p.m. MDT; and Thursday, August 5, 10-11 a.m. MDT. To participate in the webinars for Yellowstone’s winter-use plan, first read the newsletter (link above) about the draft range of alternatives. Then, go to https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/936260544 to register for the August 3 session; or https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/302796888 to register for the August 5 session. You can visit these links at any time to register up until each webinar starts.
At each of the gotomeeting.com links above, you will be asked to give your name and email address, so that the system can confirm your participation and email you a computer link you will use to connect to the webinar on the scheduled day and time. You can ask questions during the webinar by typing and submitting them from your computer keyboard. However, you also can send questions in advance IF you do so when you first register for the webinars.
You can type your advance questions about the range of alternatives into the box provided on the registration page. Again, please note: The only way to submit a question in advance is to do so when you register for the webinar. You can submit any other questions live after the webinars begin.
In addition, you will have the option to listen to the webinar in two ways: over your computer speakers while viewing the presentation, or by telephone while viewing the webinar on your computer. Please be aware that the phone-in option that gotomeeting.com will provide at the time of the webinar will NOT be a toll-free call and may incur long-distance charges.
The conference call is slated for Wednesday, August 4, 7-8 p.m. MDT. The toll free number for the call is 877-918-1346 (this number is for calls from U.S. telephones only). Please enter the passcode, 8654495 followed by the pound (#) sign.
The NPS will provide a 60-day public review and comment period on the alternatives and their analyses when the DEIS is released in early 2011.