Yellowstone snowmobiling to decrease

Snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by David Long.

Quieter times will soon be upon the oldest national park in the country, thanks to a monumental decision last month by a federal court to throw out a Bush Administration decision to allow an excessive number of snowmobiles per day in the beloved park.

In September, a federal court ruled in favor of protecting the air, wildlife and natural quiet of Yellowstone National Park from noisy, polluting snowmobiles. The court ruled that that the Bush Administration’s decision authorizing 540 snowmobiles per day in Yellowstone National Park — a doubling of current snowmobile use — violates the fundamental responsibility of the National Park Service to protect the clean air, wildlife, and natural quiet of national parks for the benefit of all visitors.

Peace and quiet for Yellowstone's animals

This decision will restore Yellowstone’s profound winter quiet and help protect bison and other wildlife that were harassed by the traffic of snowmobiles. During winter months, animals in the park are already under stress from the harsh winter conditions. Often, snowmobiles come uncomfortably close to these animals, such as the bison that congregate in areas where the vehicles are allowed to pass.

This is an important victory for Yellowstone and all of America’s national parks. Yellowstone is an embodiment of one of America’s great ideas – that our cherished lands must be conserved and protected. The Court’s opinion reaffirms this principle.

Massive public backing

During the past ten years, over half a million Americans sent comments to the National Park Service concerning Yellowstone’s winter management, making it the most publicly-commented-on issue in the history of the national parks.

Tens of thousands of our own members were part of this effort, through taking actions through our WildAlert messages.

The Wilderness Society and other groups, such as the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Winter Wildlands Alliance were all part of this latest ruling, which was the result of our collective law suit challenging the Bush Administration’s failure to protect Yellowstone’s resources and values.

The Wilderness Society will continue to work with our coalition partners to stay engaged in the Yellowstone snowmobiling issue. The next step will be ensuring that the victorious court ruling remains intact and is instituted appropriately by the Park Service.  

A consistent 4-to-1 majority has favored accessing the park by snowcoach instead of snowmobile. Enjoyment of Yellowstone by snowcoaches — which are quieter, slower, cleaner, and less disruptive of other visitors — will remain widely available and ensure the park is proteceted for future generations to enjoy.

For more information:
See Judge Sullivan's ruling.