Higher Court Leaves Snowmobile Phaseout in Place In Yellowstone

Ruling Comes as New Damage Tarnishes Improving Park Health


Betsy Robinson, Professional Guide, Bozeman, MT (406) 522-9825


Jackie Mathews, Business Owner, West Yellowstone, MT (406) 646-7642


Abigail Dillen, Earthjustice (406) 586-9699

A panel of federal judges today ruled that a phaseout of snowmobile use under way in Yellowstone National Park must continue.

The phaseout started December 17 and is already reducing air and noise pollution in the country’s first national park. Yet even with reduced numbers of snowmobiles, problems persist. Monday, the National Park Service announced that the “worst case of illegal snowmobile use ever recorded” on Yellowstone’s West Entrance road has damaged trees and shrubs in park meadows.

Today’s ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a bid by the snowmobile industry to overturn the phaseout less than a month after it began. Manufacturers were seeking not only to reverse the phaseout, but also to reinstate a decision by the Bush Administration to increase the number of snowmobiles in the park beyond historic averages. The Administration’s decision was ruled illegal last month by another federal judge who said it violated laws intended to protect national parks.

Today’s court ruling to continue the snowmobile phaseout drew immediate praise both locally and nationally:

Betsy Robinson, Park Guide and Business Owner, Bozeman MT (406) 522-9825

“I guided 25 visitors to Old Faithful earlier this month. Having made the same trip in many previous winters, I’m certain that Yellowstone is moving in the right direction. We still heard and smelled snowmobiles. But we experienced less air pollution, less noise. My clients were thrilled by the experience. For the sake of future visitors, and as a business owner in the area, I’m glad that Yellowstone’s recovery will continue.”

Jackie Mathews, Owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, West Yellowstone, MT (406) 646-7642

“What’s best for Yellowstone’s health is ultimately best for our town’s economy, so I’m glad for this outcome. There’s no question that our town depends on visitors, but it’s essential that we help them visit Yellowstone in a way that preserves the park. What we are slowly transitioning to — snowcoach access into the park — is not just a wise environmental plan for Yellowstone; it’s also a smart business plan for a town bordering a national park.”

Roger Kennedy, former director of the National Museum of History and former director of the National Park Service

“This decision keeps Yellowstone’s recovery on track. It’s a victory for due process and sound science and for all Americans who have said they want the first national park protected for their children and grandchildren.”

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