Washington D-C – Snowmobilers who want to ride in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks when the winter season starts Wednesday may not know until Tuesday what sort of machines they can use. A federal judge is deciding whether the National Park Service, under the Bush administration, acted appropriately when it set aside a plan to ban snowmobiles and instead adopted regulations that set limits on the number of machines allowed in the parks and require those machines to be less polluting than a typical snowmobile.
If U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan strikes down the latest regulations, his decision will likely put the earlier plan in motion. That would mean the number of snowmobiles allowed into the parks would be drastically limited this winter as the park makes a transition to snowcoaches, which would carry groups of winter visitors to see Old Faithful and other park sites.
Sullivan noted Monday that the timing of his decision will leave little time for snowmobilers and rental companies - and the small Wyoming and Montana towns that depend on their business - to adjust.
"The court didn't create this problem," Sullivan said during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington. "The court didn't drag this out to the 11th hour. The federal government did."
The state of Wyoming and a snowmobile makers' association have sided with the Interior Department in the case.