Success in Yellowstone!

It’s been a long, long time coming – 15 years, 1.1 million public comments and the most grind-it-out, exhaustive campaign Winter Wildlands Alliance has ever embarked on – so all of us at WWA are thrilled with today’s release of the Final Yellowstone Winter Visitation Plan from the National Park Service.

From a Yellowstone National Park that a decade ago looked, smelled and sounded more like a wild west race track than the pristine winter refuge it was set aside to be, our nation’s first national park has made a remarkable recovery. Fewer vehicles, commercial guiding requirements, and tighter restrictions on noise and emissions have led to a Yellowstone today that is cleaner, quieter, and far better for skiers and snowshoers and for the Park’s iconic winter wildlife. With today’s announcement of final regulations  governing snowmobile and snowcoach use in the Park, the protections leading to this recovery are set in place for the long haul and ensure future generations can experience the enchantment of Yellowstone’s winter season on its own terms.

Over the 15 years it’s taken to accomplish this success, WWA and our partner organizations have utilized every tool available including direct citizen advocacy, meticulous use of scientific research and substantive data, and, when called for, taking our case to the courts. Today, I offer a personal and heartfelt thanks and congratulations to all of you who created the groundswell of public support that got us here.

For the coming winter, Yellowstone will continue to operate under the same interim plan as the past four winters. This plan allows up to 318 snowmobiles and 78 snowcoaches per day in the park and sets strict noise and emission standards for all over-snow vehicles.

Beginning in winter 2014-15, the new winter use plan will take effect. This plan puts in place even stronger noise and emissions standards and manages over-snow vehicle use through “transportation events.” A transportation event is one snowcoach or a group of up to 10 snowmobiles (with a daily average group size not to exceed 7 snowmobiles). 110 transportation events will be allowed each day split among the different Park entrances and no more than 50 events per day can be snowmobile groups.

Another component of the plan is that certain side roads and trails will be set aside for skiing and snowshoeing and all of Yellowstone’s winter backcountry areas will be protected for wildlife habitat and for human-powered access.

WWA and our partners have worked closely with NPS officials as they proposed and developed the new transportation event approach. We believe this approach accomplishes our goal of protecting and preserving Yellowstone’s magical winter ecosystem while providing sustainable access that allows visitors to experience the natural sights and sounds of winter in the Park. We congratulate Yellowstone National Park on the completion of this plan. We congratulate you, our members and constituents, who insisted on a plan worthy of our nation’s most iconic winter sanctuary!