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Snowplane advocates hope ban is revisited

Associated Press

JACKSON (AP) - Advocates for motorized recreation want the National Park Service to take another look at its ban of snowplanes on Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

The BlueRibbon Coalition, based in Pocatello, Idaho, is hoping a federal judge issues a favorable ruling on snowmobiles, which the group believes will open the door for the return of snowplanes to the lake.

U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer in Cheyenne is mulling whether to strike down a Clinton-era ban on snowmobiling in Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.

Jack Welch, a part-time resident of Jackson and president of the coalition, said if Brimmer scraps the 2001 rule, it might send the Park Service back to the drawing board and result in a possible review of the snowplane ban.

Park officials last year banned snowplanes from the lake in part because of their noise. A snowplane is a small craft on runners powered by an airplane motor with a propeller. One hundred eight people held permits to operate snowplanes on Jackson Lake before the ban.

Park Service officials say the snowplane ruling does not need to be revisited because it was not raised in the lawsuit that challenged the snowmobile ban.

"We're not realistically saying that the parks should have unlimited access by snowmobiles and snowplanes," Welch said recently.

"We're just saying that in the long-term rule that the Park Service will be working on, that we're back to square one on all of the issues."

Attorneys for snowmobile manufacturers, winter resorts and the states of Wyoming and Montana have asked Brimmer to permanently lift the snowmobile ban so winter-tourism businesses near the parks can have peace of mind about their survival and to prevent the 2001 ban from being reinstituted as was ordered last December by another judge.

The ban, originally designed to take effect last winter, was set aside in early 2003 by the Park Service to settle a lawsuit filed by snowmobile makers.

Under the agreement, new rules were drafted to allow a limited number of snowmobiles in the parks rather than requiring visitors to use mass-transit snowcoaches.

Brimmer's Washington, D.C., colleague, Judge Emmet Sullivan, overturned the regulations in December 2003 and ordered the ban to begin this coming winter.

Brimmer set aside Sullivan's decision in February and the Park Service is again working on rules allowing limited snowmobile use.

Earthjustice attorney Abigail Dillen, who represents conservation groups trying to reinstate the snowmobile ban, called the latest legal moves posturing.

"They're betting on (Brimmer) to give them a resounding decision about how snowcoaches are a bad idea," she said.

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