When completed, the new winter use plan will spell out how many snowmobiles and snowcoaches can enter Yellowstone each day of the winter seasons, and under what conditions.
The alternative preferred by the National Park Service and now open for public comment would set varying daily limits for motorized travel — ranging from an upper limit of 330 snowmobiles and 80 snowcoaches to a lower limit of 110 snowmobiles and 30 coaches. The daily schedule would be set a year in advance. Yellowstone managers say the varying limits would allow visitors to choose what kind of a park experience they want and provide more opportunities for snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
With a seasonal average of 254 snowmobiles and 63 snowcoaches allowed into the park each day, the preferred plan would be a decrease from the recent temporary limits of 318 snowmobiles and 78 coaches a day, and earlier snowmobile limits set at 720 machines a day. The 318/78 limits would remain in place for the coming 2011-’12 winter season.
Sylvan Pass and Yellowstone’s East Entrance would remain open for winter travel under the proposed plan. Restrictions requiring all travelers to be led by a commercial guide would continue. All sleds and coaches would ultimately have to meet new clean technology standards.
The Park Service also is hosting public meetings in Jackson, West Yellowstone, Mont., Bozeman, Mont., Lakewood, Colo., and Washington, D.C.
For those who can’t make a meeting in person, Park Service officials will host webinars (online meetings) from noon to 2 p.m. on June 21 and from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 22.
In a conference call with reporters earlier this month, Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk said he is looking forward to hearing what the public thinks about the proposed plan. Wenk added that the Park Service expects to make at least some changes to the plan based on what folks say.
More information — including a copy of the Park Service’s draft Environmental Impact Statement outlining and justifying its preferred plan and other options — is available online by visiting www.parkplanning.nps.gov/yell and clicking on “Winter Use Plan/EIS.”
Public comments are due by July 18.