It’s probably hard for most folks to keep up on the struggle over snowmobiles in Yellowstone Park. The article today indicates that the current temporary plan has now mostly become the draft plan for the future. Public comments will be taken beginning in March 2007.
Snowmobiling in the Park would continue with a maximum 720 machines a day allowed. The snowmobiles will be held to standards meant to ensure they are both quieter and less polluting than before the controversy arose. This requires 4-stroke, rather than the typical 2-stroke snowmobile engire. Furthermore, all riders have to go with a commercial guide.
The biggest difference between the temporary and the draft plan is the closure of the East Entrance of the Park to snowmobiles. The East Entrance gets small use and the expenditure for avalanche control are very high, amounting to a huge subsidy per snowmobile user for that Entrance.
Probably the most important recent development, however, is not the plan, but on the ground. Actual snowmobile use has dropped far below this cap. Last winter only about 250 snowmobiles a day entered the Park. A number of news articles have written of the profound drop in Yellowstone snowmobile use. The reasons seem to be 1. lack of snow 2. many snowmobiles users don’t like the restraints on speed and noise 3. many snowmobilers don’t like the requirement of a guide 4. with a decline in snowmobile use, snowcoach use has been able to become rooted. More and more visitors choose a snowcoach to enter wintertime Yellowstone.