BRC Yellowstone Snowmobile Season Ends - Response to New Legal Threats

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May 8, 2008

Jack Welch, Special Projects Consultant, BlueRibbon Coalition
- Phone: (303) 279-8436 or Cell (303) 324-7185
- Fax: (303) 279-8214
- Email:
- Webpage:

Date: 04/24/2008

We have completed another winter season in Yellowstone. Let's review the events of the last few months and see what the future may hold for the 2008-2009 winter season. First, on November 20, 2007, the National Park Service issued its Record of Decision (ROD) on winter use in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. This culminated a three-year process of developing a long-term winter use plan for the Parks. The ROD was followed by promulgation of an implementing rule on December 17, 2007. The Park opened to snowmobile access on December 19, 2007. With some limitations, these decisions marked another milestone for continued snowmobile access to the Parks, and while opponents made threats, this was a season without tangible interference from the courtroom. Snowfall was plentiful, and the Park closed to all snowmobile access on March 9, 2008.

The ROD maintains continuing snowmobile opportunities, but not without some frustrations. The new winter use plan allows for continuing limited commercial snowmobile access to Yellowstone National Park on best-available-technology machines. Daily snowmobile entries will be limited, and the Park Service has continued to prohibit non-commercially guided sledding. Despite these new restrictions, the preservationist forces are distraught over the fact any snowmobiling continues and they have taken steps to make good on their long-standing threat to eliminate snowmobiles from the Parks.

Even before the ink was dry on the new decisions, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Wilderness Society and National Parks Conservation Association filed two new lawsuits in the U.S. District of Columbia. In a notable counter-balance, the State of Wyoming and Park County, Wyoming have filed additional legal actions in the U.S. District of Wyoming. None of these suits sought injunctions or were otherwise expedited in a way that would impact the 2007-2008 season. The Federal Defendants have filed an interesting series of motions attempting to have the cases all consolidated and heard before a single judge. The first motion was filed in the D.C. court and asks to have those cases transferred to Wyoming. The second "contingent" motion was filed in Wyoming, and is premised upon a ruling denying the first motion and seeks a change of venue to the D.C. court. Briefing is underway on the motions, although the Defendants have asked for expedited review before Judge Sullivan and are seeking a ruling on April 25, 2008. Regardless of the various maneuvers or rulings, the preservationists have made it clear that they intend to vigorously pursue their claims before the 2008 opening and we can anticipate that they hope to use the 2008 general election as a springboard to renewed efforts to manage Yellowstone from Capitol Hill and even Pennsylvania Avenue.

The BlueRibbon Coalition has continued its long-running involvement in defense of reasonable snowmobile visitation to Yellowstone, and has moved to intervene in all of the lawsuits alongside its pro-access partners, including ISMA, ACSA and other snowmobile enthusiasts. These cases all remain in their initial stages, but we can anticipate that the preservationist lawyers are honing their anti-access arguments just as we are preparing to store our sleds for the summer.

In summary, it was an eventful and ultimately successful year in Yellowstone from the pro-access perspective, but our work is far from over. Please continue in your support of our efforts in Yellowstone as we move into the next critical phase of this management. None of our accomplishments will mean a thing if our complacency contributes to re-writing of these decisions through the courts or in the halls of congress.

I hope you had the opportunity to visit and enjoy these two treasures of the National Park System this winter. For the specific details concerning the ROD and Final Rule, as well as continuing updates, please visit our dedicated Yellowstone website at


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