The specifics of the plan will not surprise anyone: they’re the same as what was proposed earlier this year. Besides the daily limit of 318 four-cylinder sleds, 78 commercially guided snowcoaches will be allowed daily into the Park. It sets down long-term direction for winter use management in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway: Grooming and motorized oversnow travel on the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail between Moran Junction and Flagg Ranch will be discontinued, while 25 sleds will be allowed daily to travel to Jackson Lake purely for fishing. And, in a sop to Wyoming politicians, the Park Service will continue to maintain the East Entrance during winter by grooming the Sylvan Park using howitzers to prevent avalanches.
A court challenge to this winter plan and previous winter plans will still move on, however. And the temporary plan does what other plans have done: buy the National Park Service some time to put together a plan that could please everyone.
But is this possible? Groups wishing to open Yellowstone National Park to more winter usage will surely continue to seek higher snowmobile daily limits; the Bush Administration had sought limits above 700 sleds daily. Those seeking to minimize the impact on Yellowstone will continue to seek a lower daily limit for sleds and snowcoaches. Much of the talk is academic: only a couple times in the 2008-2009 winter season did daily usage exceed 318 sleds daily.
So let the battle rage on.
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Snowcoaches line up at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Photo by Jim Peaco, courtesy of the National Park Service.