In an effort to reduce not only visitation but also snowmobile traffic during the fragile winter season, Yellowstone National Park is now restricting access between December 15 and April 22 to those traveling with commercial guiding services (who in turn must apply for limited permits). The 44 lucky visitors who got in on the first day of the new season reported unprecedented peace and quiet in one of America’s most popular national parks.
According to the new winter rules, 720 will be the maximum number of snowmobiles allowed to enter the park on any given day. All snowmobiles must meet the National Park Service’s best available technology requirements. The snowmobiles that do get in must stay on park roads and parking lots specifically groomed for their use, with all off-road travel, sidehilling and berm-riding prohibited.
A diverse coalition of environmental and wildlife advocacy groups still opposes the entry of any snowmobiles into Yellowstone, and has filed suit in federal court. “The Park Service was on the right track with snowmobile policy before the Bush administration derailed the entire process and established a consistent record of ignoring science, the public and the law,” said Sean Smith, a former Yellowstone park ranger who now heads up the public lands program for the nonprofit Bluewater Network. “Yellowstone has received a lot of the attention, but the problems associated with snowmobiles exist throughout the park system and must be addressed.”