U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer last week ruled that the Clinton-era ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks was invalid because the decision-making process did not involve enough public participation and as such violated federal law. Brimmer’s opinion on the matter stated that the rule was "the product of a prejudged, political decision to ban snowmobiles from all the national parks."
Upon hearing the news, National Park Service officials began drafting new rules allowing for 720 guided snowmobiles per day in Yellowstone and 140 per day in Grand Teton, as well as along the highway that connects the two parks.
Interior Secretary Gail Norton commented that Brimmer’s decision marked a step in the right direction toward a "common-sense solution" to the controversy. "We are committed to allowing responsible winter access through cleaner-operating machines, restricting snowmobiles to the same paved roads that are used by vehicles in the summer months," said Norton. "Visitors and wildlife will remain under the watchful eye of experienced guides."
The original ban was supposed to take effect last winter, but was postponed pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by snowmobile manufacturers protesting the rule. But the ensuing settlement calling for limited snowmobile access to the disputed areas was then struck down by U.S. District Judge Emmet Smith, who ordered the ban to commence this winter.