Appeals court says Grand Teton snowplane group has no case |

Appeals court says Grand Teton snowplane group has no case

Ben Neary
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A group appealing a ban on operating snowplanes on Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park has lost its case in federal court.

A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled Tuesday that a group of ice fishermen calling itself “Save our Snowplanes” lacked standing to appeal the National Park Service’s ban on the machines.

Snowplanes are propeller-driven machines that slide on skis across frozen lakes.

Jackie Skaggs, public information officer for Grand Teton, said the Park Service banned the machines from Jackson Lake in 2001 because they made too much noise.

Save our Snowplanes sued the Park Service in 2005 saying the agency failed to provide a reasoned analysis for its decision to ban the machines. Ice fishermen had used snowplanes at the lake for decades before the ban.

U.S. District Judge William Downes of Wyoming ruled against the group in 2007, saying it had failed to prove the Park Service’s analysis was flawed. The group appealed his ruling to the appeals court in Denver.

The appeals court ruling issued this week concluded that Save Our Snowplanes had challenged the Park Service’s 2001 winter use plan after the plan was no longer in effect and had been replaced by another rule.

As a result of the group challenging the wrong plan, the appeals court said, Downes lacked jurisdiction to hear its case.

“Because the 2001 rule was not in effect when Save Our Snowplanes filed its complaint, the district court could not have enjoined the snowplane ban contained therein,” said the order written by Circuit Judge Carlos F. Lucero.

Lucero’s order vacated Downes’ decision and ordered the group’s case dismissed.

Attempts to reach Cheyenne lawyer Karen Budd-Falen, who represented the snowplane group, for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Bob Zimmer, spokesman for Save Our Snowplanes and former Teton County Sheriff, said he hadn’t reviewed the court’s decision.

“If there are avenues open to us to get back and go fishing, then I think we will investigate those and see what the financial burden is,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer said there were 108 snowplanes permitted to operate on the lake when they were last allowed there.

“I think it started off with big government pushing around little fishermen,” Zimmer said of the ban. He said running snowplanes is a third-generation activity that’s gone on at Jackson Lake for over 60 years.

“We’ve heard we’ve ruin the soundscape, and we speed up there, and all that’s inaccurate,” Zimmer said. “We were a small group to pick on.”

Franz Camenzind, executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, said his group hasn’t been involved in the lawsuit, but did support the Park Service plan that called for banning snowplanes.

“The machines themselves certainly have a historic presence on that lake, or had a historic presence,” Camenzind said.

“The problem with them has always been the noise,” Camenzind said. “They’re an amazingly noisy machine. I think a lot of the decision to have them removed is based on that noise intrusion on that quiet winter setting. They really did make a lot of noise, and the noise bounced off the mountains.”

Skaggs said the machines were often audible from as far as three or four miles from the lake. She said up to 40 snowmobiles a day are still allowed at the lake during winter for licensed ice fishermen.

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