From Staff Reports
The National Park Service is planning to change how commercial business are permitted to operate in Yellowstone National Park, and a series of public meetings are scheduled in gateway towns around the region to offer information and hear public comment on the draft plan.
From boat tours to horseback rides, anyone engaged in commercial operations within the park must first be authorized by the Park Service. Park managers are planning on changing the process under which such activities are authorized, and the result could be more competition among commercial operators.
The purpose of the draft plan is to improve the Commercial Use Authorization program’s consistency with federal laws, policies, and guidelines, according to a statement released by the Yellowstone public affairs office.
Under the proposed new plan, the park would begin issuing new permits and introduce a new fee structure for commercial operators beginning in April 2013, with full implementation to be completed by April 2015. Existing CUA holders would see increased competition and higher fees. The plan also provides an opportunity for new commercial operators to conduct business inside the park.
Many of the aspects of the draft plan will affect both existing and potential CUA holders, including an open application process, new operating plans, new fee schedules, new reporting requirements, NPS staff evaluations, NPS provided training, resource monitoring and increased competition for CUAs if the park determines that the number of authorizations for a particular service category must be limited.
According to planning documents, the total category of commercial use categories will be reduced and consolidated. The draft CUA plan and associated operating plans for various activity types are available for public review and comments at the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/cuaplan.
Respondents are encouraged to submit their comments online by March 31.
The public is encouraged to attend the following public meetings, which will provide a brief presentation followed by questions and answers.
- Monday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. in Bozeman, MT: Holiday Inn Jefferson Room, 5 Baxter Lane East
- Tuesday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Jackson, WY: Lexington Conference Room, 285 North Cache
- Wednesday, March 13 at 7:30 p.m. in West Yellowstone, MT: Chamber of Commerce, 30 Yellowstone Ave.
- Monday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Gardiner, MT: Yellowstone Association, 308 Park St.
- Wednesday, March 20 at 6:30 p.m. in Cody, WY: Park County Library, 1500 Heart Mountain St., 6:30 p.m.
Additionally, the Park Service is preparing an environmental assessment to analyze impacts associated with the issuance of new concession contracts for guided backcountry saddle and pack stock tours in Yellowstone National Park.
This project presents an opportunity for the Park Service to consider alternatives for management and to analyze the impacts of commercial stock operations on park resources. Over the past 15 years, the number of riders entering Yellowstone’s backcountry on commercial horseback day rides has increased by approximately 50 percent from an average of around 3,000 to an average of around 4,500, while the number of overnight riders has averaged around 5,500 over the past 6 years.
The first step in preparing an environmental assessment is to ask the public to help identify issues or concerns that park staff should consider. This process, known as public scoping, is now open and runs through March 31, 2013. The public is encouraged to attend the following public meetings, which will provide a brief presentation followed by questions and answers.
- Monday, March 11 at 6:30 in Bozeman, MT: Holiday Inn Jefferson Room, 5 Baxter Lane East.
- Tuesday, March 12 at 6:30 in Jackson, WY: Lexington Conference Room, 285 North Cache.
- Wednesday, March 13 at 6:30 in West Yellowstone, MT: Chamber of Commerce, 30 Yellowstone Ave.
- Monday, March 18 at 6:30 in Gardiner, MT: Yellowstone Association, 308 Park St.
- Wednesday, March 20 at 5:30 in Cody, WY: Park County Library, 1500 Heart Mountain St.
In addition to the meetings, information and comment forms are online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/stockEA. Comments are due by March 31.