The proposed limit, which will be open for comments for 45 days beginning tomorrow after publication in the Federal Register, was arrived at by Park officials and put into effect November 2008. It came after much legal wrangling and confusing decisions by judges in Wyoming and Washington, D.C. — confusion used by the Bush Administration to push a much higher daily limit than Park officials wanted. The 318 guided-sled limit came after a scientific evaluation of noise and air pollution in the greater Yellowstone area, as well as the impact of sleds on animals.
Of course, both numbers were mostly academic: an average of 205 snowmobiles entered Yellowstone National Park during the 2008-2009 winter season, considerably lower than the 295-snowmobile average for the 2007-2008 season. The 2008-2009 number might have been depressed by uncertainty about the status of the winter season, an unfortunate byproduct of the legal wrangling so late into the year. Still, the limit would have kicked in several times last season: for instance, on December 29 426 snowmobiles entered Yellowstone.
The 318-sled limit will remain in place for two years, while the National Park Service will undertake yet another study of snowmobiling’s impact on the Park. We don’t expect anything to be different from the last study of snowmobiling’s impact — but the results may differ thanks to the different political climate.
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.