CASPER — U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer said in a Friday ruling that, while he didn’t like another federal judge’s decision to throw out Yellowstone National Park snowmobile rules, he wasn’t going to fight it.
But Brimmer confused matters by also ruling that “the NPS[National Park Service] shall reinstate the 2004 temporary rule until such time as it can promulgate an acceptable rule to take its place.”
So what does that mean?
It depends on who you talk to.
To Jack Welch of the BlueRibbon Coalition that favors more snowmobiles the parks, it means victory and a daily cap of 720 snowmobiles in Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the J.D. Rockefeller Parkway.
“This will bring stability back to the season,” said Welch.
Yet for conservationists, that reference to the 2004 temporary rule is merely a backstop or a contingency, should Park Service officials fail to craft a temporary winter use plan that would set a cap of 318 snowmobiles per day.
Asked for clarification, Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said Park Service lawyers are reviewing the Brimmer order.
Amy McNamera, of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said she isn’t too excited over the BlueRibbon’s claim of victory. She said the Park Service has made it very clear that it has the authority to develop a temporary winter use rule in response to a federal court ruling. That ruling determined the 720 snowmobile daily cap to be harmful to Yellowstone.
Last September, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of Washington, D.C. tossed the latest National Park Service snowmobile rules, saying “According to the National Park Service’s own data, the (plan) will increase air pollution, exceed the use levels recommended by NPS biologists to protect wildlife, and cause major adverse impacts to the natural soundscape in Yellowstone.”
That ruling forced Yellowstone officials back to the drawing board, to craft a temporary rule for this upcoming winter season. That rule is now in a public comment phase, with the goal of having a viable, temporary rule in place for the winter season opening on Dec. 15th.
Since the Sullivan ruling in September, interested parties have been waiting for Judge Brimmer to weigh in on a Blue Ribbon Coalition petition to increase the number of snowmobiles allowed in the parks.
Coalition lawyers had asked Brimmer to reinstate the temporary winter use plan, which was in effect for three years prior to the plan that was tossed out by Judge Sullivan. The temporary winter use plan was set at 720 snowmobiles per day, and the proposed temporary rule for this winter is set at 318 snowmobiles per day.
In his ruling, Brimmer wrote “Initially, this Court finds it unfortunate that a United States District Court witting over 2,000 miles away from the actual subject of this litigation feels compelled to hand down a ruling affecting land that lies in this Court’s backyard.”
That promoted Jon Catton, a consultant to conservation groups involved in the Yellowstone snowmobile controversy, to note that Judge Brimmer apparently feels the issue is of only local, and not national interest.