From: Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press
Published November 21, 2006 12:00 AM

Park Service Plan Would Keep Current Snowmobile Limits

WASHINGTON — The National Park Service wants to maintain snowmobile regulations allowing 720 snowmobiles per day to enter Yellowstone National Park.

A draft statement issued Monday by the agency mirrors a temporary plan that has been in use for the past two winters. It would also allow 140 snowmobiles a day to enter Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Parkway, which connects the two parks.

The snowmobiles must use what the Park Service calls "best available technology" to reduce noise and pollution levels.

The plan was issued to other government agencies. The public will be able to comment on a separate draft expected in March.

Park officials stressed that the report is only a draft and that the plan is the agency's preferred alternative out of several proposals. A final plan is expected to be issued in time for the 2007-2008 winter season.

The agency has been looking at a wide range of options, from a ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone in favor of snowcoaches -- which run on tracks and can carry several people -- to allowing more snowmobiles, which generally carry one to two.

"We are far away from the final decision," Grand Teton National Park spokeswoman Joan Anzelmo said.

The plan would limit snowcoaches in Yellowstone to 78 per day and require those vehicles to meet sound and emissions requirements.

For years, snowmobile access to the park was largely unrestricted. But that ended before the 2003-04 winter, when the Park Service moved from a Clinton administration-era plan that called for phasing out snowmobiles in favor of snowcoaches and decided instead to limit the numbers and types of snowmobiles. Court challenges have also delayed a final decision.

Jon Catton, a Bozeman, Mont.-based conservationist, called the proposal "an unfortunate U-turn by the administration only months after it pledged to emphasize conservation in our national parks." Catton said noise pollution has continued to be a problem, even though far fewer than 720 snowmobiles have entered the park each year.

Source: Associated Press

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