CODY, Wyo. (AP)
A draft report that argues against closing Yellowstone National Park’s east gate to motorized traffic during the winter says the danger posed by avalanches has been exaggerated and that the National Park Service hasn’t explained why it’s OK for skiers, but not snowmobilers, to enter through the gate. Park County commissioners asked Missoula, Mont.-based Ecosystem Research Group to prepare the report in an attempt to save the county’s winter tourism industry. Commissioner Jill Shockley Siggins said local businesses already are suffering since the Park Service announced its plans to close the east gate. Bob Coe, owner of the Pahaska Tepee resort lodge, said he’s cut his staff by two thirds, from 24 employees to eight. And Cino Godinez, coowner of Wapiti-based High Country Adventures, said the company spent $200,000 to develop a snowcoach business that wouldn’t be allowed to operate under the proposed rules. The Park Service has said it Wants to keep the east gate closed to motorized traffic in the winter because of the danger of avalanches along Sylvan Pass. The proposal would bar motorized vehicles, but would allow visitors to ski or snowshoe into Yellowstone through the east gate. Park County commissioners said they planned to question why motorized vehicles are seen as a danger when skiers and snowshoers apparently aren’t. And the report prepared for the commission questions the danger posed by avalanches along the pass. “Since the East Entrance has been opened, there have not been any documented injuries involving over-snow vehicles,” according to the report. Commissioners said they would submit the draft report, along with additional comments, to the Park Service. The deadline for public comment on the proposal is Friday.