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Yellowstone Park Seeks Input On Winter Use Planning

A national conservation group and a motorized access group describe a proposed winter use management tool for Yellowstone National Park as a step in the right direction.

The park implemented a new snowmobile lottery system this winter. Officials say it established a foundation for an adaptive management program now under consideration. The plan would gather data on how snowmobiles and snowcoaches affect factors from wildlife to air quality. That data could then be used to tweak its winter use plan as needed.

Bart Melton of the National Parks Conservation Association likes what he sees so far.

"I think adaptive use and adaptive management will allow the public and the Park Service to work together in the coming years to continue to allow the plan to evolve so use at Yellowstone balances protection of the resources at the highest standard with visitor use."

Melton says he even sees potential for adaptive management techniques for bison within Yellowstone’s ecosystem. Hearings will be held next week on potential revisions to the government's Yellowstone bison management program.

Yellowstone National Park's new snowmobile lottery system was also a hit this winter with at least one national motorized access group.

"The only thing that went wrong was the weather," says Jack Welch of the Blue Ribbon Coalition.

Welch says despite this winter's lousy snow conditions, the park's new winter rules worked well. They allow a limited number of unguided snowmobiles in the park each day in winter. The rules also set requirements for pollution-control equipment for snowmobiles and snowcoaches.

Park officials now want to get public feedback on proposed adaptive management rules. If implemented, Welch says the park could more easily adjust its winter use plan.

"Through adaptive management the Park Service would be able to make certain adjustments to the winter use plan after doing additional monitoring and research without having to go back and do either a complete new plan, a supplemental plan or an amendment."

The draft adaptive management plan is open for public comment until Aug. 21.

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