More than 100 skiers from around the nation gathered in Yellowstone National Park to speak out against Tuesdays federal court ruling that again allows snowmobile use in the park.
“We must preserve this park now, before its too late,” said Haidee Wilson from North Carolina. “This park is a national, possibly even an international gem, and we must do what we can to ensure that future generations can visit Yellowstone in its original state.”
The rally, hosted by Winter Wildlands Alliance (WWA) took place just inside the parks West Gate, which is now the entryway for up to 440 snowmobiles per day. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer issued a temporary restraining order that suppresses a pending ban on snowmobiling in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Brimmer ruled that without the order, companies that rely on snowmobiling in the parks would suffer irreparable harm because of lost business.
Many residents of the Parks gateway community of West Yellowstone expressed concerns that the Dec. 16 ruling would reduce winter tourism dollars. WWAs event was to be an attempt at re-introducing human-powered winter recreationists to the park. Many skiers and snowshoers avoided Yellowstone in the winter because it was previously considered to be a haven of motorized recreation.
Winter Wildlands expects the long-term effect of a snowmobile ban in the parks to actually be an increase in tourism dollars as more user-groups flock to a safer, quieter, more pristine Yellowstone, while snowmobilers continue to utilize the more than 1,000 miles of snowmobile trails just outside the Park. WWA officials estimated that the 105 attendees of their celebration pumped more than $40,000 into local economies.
“Skiers and snowshoers have told us theyre ready to return to places like West Yellowstone and were confident theyll play a key role in expanding the communitys tourism base, once snowmobile use is banned from our parks,” said WWA Executive Director Sally Grimes.
With a complete phase-out of snowmobiles still scheduled for next winter, Grimes said it is critical that the Park Service, Congress, local businesses and government leaders, and recreation organizations like WWA work together to find new ways to draw more winter visitors to West Yellowstone and other gateway communities. Winter Wildlands is calling for a modernization of the Yellowstone snowcoach fleet and better education of the public on the diverse winter recreation opportunities in and around Yellowstone.