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Yellowstone announces new contracts for winter oversnow tours

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After more than a decade of lawsuits, environmental studies and temporary use plans, the National Park Service settled on the Final Plan for Winter Use in October 2013 and on Monday announced the companies who will help implement that plan for the 2014-2015 winter season.

The debate on how best to handle Yellowstone’s growing oversnow traffic has been ongoing since the repeal of a Clinton-era snowmobile ban in October 2004. In place of the ban, the National Park Service enacted a temporary use plan meant to be in place for two to three years. Ten years later, a final plan is in place. Unlike the various temporary plans, which determined allowed traffic based on a set number of snowmobiles and snowcoaches permitted to travel each day, the final plan seeks to allow more flexibility by allocating each operator with a number of transportation events. Under the new contracts, concessioners will be able to use their allocated number of transportation events for snowcoaches or, within limits, a mix of snowcoaches and snowmobiles according to a National Park Service press release issued Monday. As part of the final plan, adjustments were also made to the permit requirements and a competitive bid process began in November 2013.

Joining existing in-park concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts will be Back Country Adventures, Buffalo Bus Company/Yellowstone Vacations, Two Top Snowmobile Rental and Yellowstone Alpen Guides operating from the West Entrance, DTRS Jackson Hole, Forever Resorts and Teton Science Schools at the South Entrance, Yellowstone Year-Round Safaris based at the North Entrance and Gary Fales Outfitting will round out the options by serving the East Entrance.

These nine businesses combine for 23 new concession contracts and were selected based on five primary factors including protection of park resources, reasonable rates, overall experience, ability to meet the contract terms financially and the proposed franchise fee return to the federal government.

These contracts are for ten-year terms and will take effect for the 2014-2015 winter season.

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