Judge won't block snowmobile limit

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A federal judge in Wyoming said Wednesday he lacks authority to block a plan to set a lower limit on snowmobile traffic in Yellowstone National Park starting this winter.

The order by U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer clears the way for the National Park Service to proceed with a plan that could limit snowmobile traffic at the park to 318 machines a day this winter -- less than half of last winter's limit. The same limit would also apply to snowmobiling in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway.

Brimmer last year had imposed a 720-snowmobile daily limit that was to remain in effect until the Park Service enacted an acceptable rule to take its place.

The Park Service in July announced its intention to lower the daily snowmobile limit to 318. Wyoming and Park County had asked Brimmer to block that effort, arguing that it would violate the judge's earlier order.

John Sacklin, management assistant at Yellowstone, said Thursday the agency closed its public comment period on the plan on Sept. 8. He said the agency plans to approve a final rule by Nov. 15 -- well before the winter snowmobile season starts on Dec. 15.