- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 19, 2009

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A judge heard arguments Tuesday over whether he has the authority to block a federal proposal reducing snowmobile traffic in Yellowstone National Park, saying he would issue a decision in about a week.

The state of Wyoming has asked U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer of Cheyenne to block the Park Service from enacting a temporary winter use plan for the park as well as Grand Teton National Parks and the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway.

The Park Service last month announced that it plans to set the daily snowmobile limit at 318 for the next two winters, less than half of the 720-snowmobile daily limit Brimmer set last year.

In that original ruling, Brimmer ordered that limit should remain in effect until the Park Service enacted an acceptable rule to take its place.

Jay Jerde, deputy Wyoming attorney general, asked Brimmer Tuesday to enforce his original order by blocking the Park Service from proceeding with the interim plan. Jerde said cutting the number of snowmobiles would create uncertainty for area businesses that rely on winter tourists.

But Luther Hajek, lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, argued that Brimmer lost authority to act on the case after the National Parks Conservation Association appealed his ruling. The U.S. District Court of Appeals in Denver is considering the association’s appeal.

“The court may not now reinterpret its prior order while the case is pending on appeal,” Hajek told Brimmer.

Hajek said Wyoming should be forced to wait until the Park Service releases its interim rule before challenging it.

Brimmer responded, “Obviously the state is concerned over the interest of its citizens to get a workable rule before the coming of the next snowmobile season, which will be on us before we can say ‘Jack Frost,’ practically.”

Brimmer said it would probably take him a week to write a formal decision. He said he was troubled by the arguments that he lacked authority to act on the case while it was under appeal. He also said he was troubled by the state’s motivation.

“You wonder if the state is just meddling, or are they reaching out for political support of some sort,” Brimmer said. “Or do they have a real interest here?”

Brimmer said he would determine whether he has authority to act on the matter while the appeal is pending. “And if I can find any legitimate way to act, I will,” he said.

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