The National Park Service Friday released their proposal for a final plan to guide the future of winter use in Yellowstone National Park. Under the preferred of four alternatives, the park would manage over-snow vehicles based on their overall impacts to air quality, soundscapes, wildlife and visitors, rather than focusing on the number of snowmobiles and snow-coaches allowed in the park each day. Under that plan, Park Superintendent Dan Wenk says the park would allow up to 110 “transportation events” per day. He explains that events are defined as either one snow-coach or an average group of seven snowmobiles, which could potentially lead to more machines permitted than under the current temporary plan. In fact, he says, there are days during the peak seasons where you could have more machines in the park than are currently permitted. Wenk says, “A maximum use day, where you had 46 snowmobile events and each had 10 snowmobiles an event, you would have 460 machines that would be commercially available versus the current 318 – plus you have four groups of five non-commercially available events that could take that total of snowmobiles on any given day
up to 480.” Wenk points out that over the season, the maximum average number allowed would be 342 under the new plan. The preferred alternative would also permit motorized over-snow travel over Sylvan Pass. Public comments will be accepted during a 60-day public review and comment period. The winter of 2013/2014 will be a transition year, during which the park will allow motorized over-snow travel under the same conditions in place for the past four winters. The final plan would take effect during the winter of 2014/2015. A record of decision is anticipated this spring.