A federal court in Montana has upheld legal protections for sensitive wildlife habitat near Yellowstone National Park, rejecting a motorized recreation group’s challenge that sought to open the area to increased snowmobile traffic.
Gallatin Mountain Range, as seen from Terrace Mountain.
(RG Johnsson / NPS)
The ruling, issued Monday, June 25, 2012, upheld a U.S. Forest Service order restricting snowmobile use throughout much of a congressionally designated wilderness study area in the Gallatin Mountain Range, which adjoins the northwestern corner of Yellowstone National Park.
“The Gallatin Range contains the most extensive undeveloped public lands adjoining Yellowstone park that have not yet received permanent wilderness protection from Congress,” said Earthjustice attorney Timothy Preso, who represented conservation groups in the case. “This court ruling preserves the wilderness character of this special area, which provides winter-time habitat for elk, moose, and rare species such as wolverine and lynx that range between the Gallatin lands and the park itself.”
The Forest Service imposed the snowmobile restriction at issue in the case only after being successfully sued by Earthjustice for previously allowing excessive snowmobile use that degraded the wilderness quality of affected lands. However, a motorized-recreation group, Citizens for Balanced Use, challenged the snowmobile restriction. In rejecting the group’s challenge, the Montana court agreed with Earthjustice that governing law prioritizes preservation of wilderness quality—rather than snowmobile traffic—in the Gallatin Range.
Earthjustice represented the Montana Wilderness Association, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and The Wilderness Society in the case.