JACKSON, Wyo. — Newly appointed U.S. Sen. John Barrasso said he supports snowmobile access in Yellowstone National Park.
In a letter to park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis, Barrasso, R-Wyo., said he supports allowing self-guided trips into Yellowstone, something that could be prohibited in the park's proposed winter-use plan.
"Denying access that has been responsibly enjoyed by many of us for decades is simply unacceptable," he wrote in his letter. "Some of my fondest memories in Yellowstone were spent snowmobiling through the park. It is a truly special experience to explore the beauty of the park privately, on one's own terms. This opportunity must not be taken away from future generations."
Barrasso also asked that Sylvan Pass, near the park's East Entrance, remain open year round despite avalanche risks and expensive avalanche-control programs.
The Park Service's proposed winter use plan would allow 720 snowmobiles per day into Yellowstone and a smaller number in Grand Teton National Park. It would also close Sylvan Pass, the route from Cody, during the winter.
The plan would require snowmobilers to use commercial guides and machines that are equipped with the "best available technology" to limit pollution. That means snowmobiles would be required to have four-stroke engines that are considered quieter and less polluting than traditional two-stroke machines.
Barrasso said the restrictions in the proposal were contrary to the Park Service mission and would hurt local economies.
Conservation groups oppose the Park Service's plan because they say it allows too many snowmobiles.
National Park Service Director Mary Bomar is considering the winter use plan.