Conservationists Appeal Judge's Decision to Lift Snowmobile Phaseout

Increased Yellowstone snowmobile traffic back


Earthjustice attorneys Abigail Dillen, Doug Honnold, 406-586-9699

Earthjustice today appealed a Wyoming district court order to the National Park Service to allow more snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Judge Clarence Brimmer issued a ruling Tuesday that allowed for increased snowmobile traffic in the parks and the Park Service responded immediately with new rules that allow hundreds more snowmobiles into Yellowstone each day. Judge Brimmer’s ruling conflicts with a December 2003 ruling from federal district Judge Emmett Sullivan in Washington D.C. The D.C. district court ordered the Park Service to reinstate a Clinton-era snowmobile phase-out that has significantly improved air quality and restored peace and quiet over the past two months. However, the snowmobile industry and the State of Wyoming have been intent on reversing the phase-out. They appealed first to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to stay Judge Sullivan’s ruling. When the DC Circuit Court of Appeals denied that request, the snowmobile manufacturer’s association and the state of Wyoming asked Judge Brimmer in Wyoming district court to block the phaseout. Earlier this week, Judge Clarence Brimmer ordered the Park Service to stop the phase-out and institute yet another set of rules governing snowmobile use in Yellowstone. In order to accommodate local businesses, the Park Service is now authorizing entry of 920 snowmobiles into Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks every day.

“Yellowstone National Park belongs to the public and the nation as a whole, not to the snowmobile industry and not to a few local business owners,” said Earthjustice attorney Abigail Dillen. “Special interests should not be driving the management of our first national park. We feel confident that the Tenth Circuit will recognize that this case was properly handled by the D.C. courts and that the snowmobile phase-out that is finally restoring peace and quiet in Yellowstone should go forward.”

Notably, the Bush administration has embraced the Wyoming District Court’s ruling, seizing the opportunity to allow significantly increased snowmobiling in Yellowstone this season. Without further action from the courts, this unfortunately means more air pollution, more noise, and more wildlife harassment in the park this winter.

Earthjustice is representing the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, National Parks Conservation Association, The Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Winter Wildlands Alliance, and Sierra Club in this litigation.

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