CODY, Wyo. Contesting snowmobile limits in Yellowstone National Park and plans for the park's east entrance, the state of Wyoming has filed a petition in federal court seeking a review of the winter use plan for Yellowstone.
Filed in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne, the petition from the Wyoming Attorney General's Office asks the court to set aside portions of the plan that address daily limits on snowmobiles, management of Sylvan Pass and requirements for commercial snowmobile guides.
Attorneys for the state contend that park planners failed to take a "hard look" at the environmental consequences of their decisions. Planners did not allow the state to "meaningfully participate in the development of the revised preferred alternative" when deciding to reduce daily snowmobile entries from 720 to 540, starting in the 2008-09 winter, the filing states.
In addition, park planners acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" by "failing to provide a reasoned analysis" of their change in Sylvan Pass management policy, the petition says. Beginning in the 2008-09 winter, the National Park Service plans to allow snowmobiles over the pass only when forecasting indicates the pass is safe from avalanches. If the pass isn't open, it effectively closes the park's east entrance, which is about five miles to the east of the pass.
Attorneys for the state also argue that requiring a commercial guide for every snowmobile entering the park amounts to "a de facto levy of a tax or an unauthorized fee."
The petition asks the court to set aside the contested portions of the winter use plan and that a revised plan addressing those issues be implemented by Sept. 1, 2008.
The court must find potential merit in the petition's claims for the review to be considered.
No response has been filed by the National Park Service or U.S. Bureau of the Interior, and no date is set for consideration of the petition.
Al Nash, a spokesman for Yellowstone, said it was the third such challenge to the park's winter use plan filed since a final decision was announced last month.
Two petitions for review were filed in November by conservation groups seeking to eliminate all snowmobiles from Yellowstone in favor of snow coaches.
Nash said all petitions would be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice, which would file any response with the court.
"This issue over the years has received a lot of comments over a range of points of view, and we recognized that some individuals and some groups were going to be dissatisfied with the record of decision and final rule," Nash said.