BlueRibbon Coalition BRC: Yellowstone Open to Snowmobiles this Winter!


Jack Welch, Volunteer Consultant, BlueRibbon Coalition
- Phone: (303) 279-8436 or Cell (303) 324-7185
- Fax: (303) 279-8214
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Date: 01/07/2011

Snowmobiles are back as a form of transportation in Yellowstone National Park this winter. The Park gates opened on December 15, 2010, for another season of access, with early December snow storms providing the conditions necessary to groom the interior roads.

This access is occurring under the Winter Use Temporary Plan Environmental Assessment that was released on October 15, 2009. The regulation to implement the Temporary Plan was published on November 20, 2009, in the Federal Register. The Park operated under this temporary rule for the 2009-2010 season and will operate under the same plan for the 2010-2011 winter season.

Under the temporary rule, motorized oversnow access will continue this winter. Up to 318 commercially-guided, Best Available Technology (BAT) snowmobiles and up to 78 snowcoaches will be allowed per day in Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone's East Entrance and Sylvan Pass will be open for motorized and non-motorized oversnow travel, subject to weather and safety constraints. Trail and off-road use of snowmobiles and snowcoaches has always been, and will continue to be, prohibited.

The regulation provides visitors, area businesses, and park employees with a plan they can count on for the 2010-2011 season. This temporary rule is the same as last season, and will allow the National Park Service time to develop and complete a new long-term plan for winter use in Yellowstone National Park that will take effect for the 2011-2012 season. Please check out the draft alternatives and schedule to complete this long term Winter Use Plan on our website (

The Park Service is working through another Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to develop a new long range winter use plan for Yellowstone. Our next opportunity to comment on the plan will likely be in April/May 2011, when the Draft EIS is released.

It is important to note that in the 2009-2010 season, December through March, a total of 22,228 visitors chose to access the Park via snowmobile, while 20,388 came by snowcoaches during the same period. The difference shows that, even under the restricted number of 318 daily snowmobile entries and the much higher snowcoach limit of 78 per day, the public preferred snowmobiles as the means to access the Park.

Another special rule has been published that addresses snowmobile access in Grand Teton Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, including access along Grassy Lake Road from Flagg Ranch to the National Forest, and on Jackson Lake for licensed anglers. The Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail through Grand Teton National Park is closed.

In closing, I understand that the fight over Yellowstone has been a long, contentious, and complicated battle. We are now in the 12th year of our combined efforts to maintain snowmobile access to Yellowstone National Park. The fact it has continued 12 years is a testament to our collective resolve. The fact that Yellowstone remains open to snowmobiles represents one of the most profound victories over one the most aggressive anti-access causes in our lifetime. Enjoy the victory and make your plans to come and enjoy Yellowstone National Park this winter on a snowmobile!

Note: For current information on items covered in this summary, go to our dedicated website of

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