Park Service finalizes policy limiting snowmobile access in Yellowstone

Three Wyoming lawmakers are anything but jolly after the National Park Service issued an order this week that limits some outdoor enthusiasts from dashing through the snow.

The state's congressional delegation produced a flurry of frosty statements on Thursday after the park service finalized a two-year policy limiting snowmobile access inside Yellowstone National Park during the winter months.

"Putting limits on public access is not required by law and is not backed by science" said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. "The administration has put politics ahead of management by limiting public access to our parks."

The park service's plan allows for just 318 snowmobiles and 78 commercial "snowcoaches," or bus-like vehicles popular with sightseers, each day. The limit is less than half the cap set by the Bush administration of 720 vehicles a day.

The rule will be assessed over the next two years to determine the environmental impact of the recreational vehicles.

A blizzard of controversy over snowmobile access to the park has been raging for years, exasperating local businesses as lawmakers, environmentalists and the courts have wrangled over efforts to reduce noise and pollution.

Fearing the limits will discourage tourists from visiting the park and harm the local economy, Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., called the park service ruling "both disgraceful and wrong."

The resort industry has been eager to capitalize on what one snowmobile operator hails as "the privacy and seclusion of Yellowstone in winter." On its Web site, it adds: "Follow all 400 miles of groomed trails with exhilarating landscapes and breathtaking views ... warm, steamy waterfalls and rivers rushing through frozen vistas, Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Tetons, wolves, bison, coyotes, elk, and moose ... infinite beauty."

And, perhaps, less traffic, if the park service has its way.

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