MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, Wyo. — The National Park Service (NPS) is asking for public comment on a proposal to suspend one component of the adaptive monitoring plan for winter use, which was initially put in place to evaluate effects to resources in relation to snowmobiles and Oversnow Vehicles (OSV) use.
Starting in the winter of 2021 and 2022, a wildlife monitoring effort identified in the 2012-2013 Winter Use Plan and Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)/Record of Decision (ROD) would be suspended given the results have not substantially changed over the decade evaluated. This action would not affect snowmobile or OSV use in the park or impact visitors. This action is also consistent with the park’s Winter Use Adaptive Management Plan, which stated the NPS would continually re-examine and adjust winter use monitoring strategies, and management actions as new information became available.
Wildlife monitoring has consistently shown similar response levels over the years, indicating that wildlife are not, or are minimally, impacted. Wildlife response to OSVs will likely continue to follow observed patterns from the last 20 years of observation. In the future, the park may explore other methods for monitoring wildlife impacts.
A recent summary report combined findings from the winter monitoring programs since the 2012-2013 Winter Use Plan and SEIS/ROD was put into effect. This summary report found that:
- Winter wildlife monitoring data from 2014 to 2019 showed 95% of wildlife in proximity (within 500 feet) to the groomed road corridor demonstrated no response or a “look and resume” response to over snow vehicles.
- Observations during this period included 1,105 groups of wildlife and 6,715 individual animals.
- Similar monitoring efforts prior to the SEIS in 2013 found roughly 91% of wildlife were observed to demonstrate no response or a “look and resume” response.
Yellowstone will renew the winter wildlife monitoring program if unexpected changes occur to wildlife populations or if significant adjustments are made to winter operations and use. Future winter wildlife monitoring efforts will be informed by the scientific community and may be considerably different than current monitoring methodologies. All other monitoring components of the SEIS/ROD will remain in effect.
This finding will inform the park’s interest in conducting visitor use impact monitoring in the summer due to record-breaking visitation.