Park snowmobile violations hit record

By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press Writer
Independent Record-


BILLINGS, MT— Officials at Yellowstone National Park reported a record number of violations by snowmobile riders this winter, a result, they say, of recent stepped-up enforcement of traffic rules in the park.

But some conservationists say the 358 violations for such things as underage driving and speeding just reinforce their belief that snowmobiles should be banned from Yellowstone.

"This type of use changes the personality and feel of the park," Sean Smith, public lands director with the Bluewater Network, said Thursday.

Smith is among those who say a plan proposed by the National Park Service for snowmobiling in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks will do little to curb the lawbreaking. "There already are restrictions on snowmobile operators, and we're seeing a blatant disregard for those," he said.

Cheryl Matthews, a spokeswoman at Yellowstone, disagreed.

Among the provisions in the plan, which would begin taking effect next winter, is the call for 80 percent of snowmobiles entering the region to do so with commercial guides. The following winter, 2004-05, all snowmobiles would come in with trained guides.

"No registration, speeding, off-road driving — many of those things would be addressed," Matthews said. "Next year, you would need to be with a guide who had training and will have to follow the rules."

During the winter of 2001-02, there were 338 violations. The season before, 176, she said.

She attributed the high number of snowmobile violations parkwide to increased enforcement of rules and regulations the past two winters.

All but eight of this year's violations occurred along the busy West Yellowstone to Old Faithful route, she said. Of the total number of violations, 114 were for driving with no license or for being an underage driver. Sixty-two were for unsafe or careless driving, three were for harassing wildlife and 54 were for speeding. The speed limit in the corridor is 35 mph.


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