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Yellowstone snowmobile deal reached

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By The Washington Post
Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 7:21 p.m.

After more than 15 years, the Yellowstone snowmobile wars may have reached an end.

The National Park Service announced on Friday that it has a plan for managing snowmobiles and snow coaches in Yellowstone National Park, a compromise between tour operators eager to bring tourists in during the winter and environmentalists who oppose the pollution and noise accompanying such vehicles.

“We think we've got something they can get behind,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk.

Under the proposal, which will take a few months to finalize, the park will allow 50 snowmobile groups and 60 snow coaches, which are large transport vehicles, to enter daily. During the winter season, which runs from Dec. 15 to March 15, there can be no more than an average of seven snowmobiles in a group, although during peak times operators can take up to 10 snowmobiles in a group.

The popular snow coaches — more than half of Yellowstone's winter visitors come on them — must reduce their vehicle emissions by 25 percent over the next few years, while snowmobiles and snow coaches will be required to run more quietly.

Tour operators and park advocates said they could accept the plan, although they hoped to make small tweaks before it becomes final in the late spring.

“The concept is great,” said Yellowstone Vacations co-owner Randy Roberson, whose family company brings about 5,000 visitors each winter into the park.

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