The use of snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks was first permitted in 1963, and their use has been a topic of ongoing concern because of their impact on park resources. The National Park Service (NPS), part of the Department of the Interior, has been grooming snow-covered roads to allow safe passage by snowmobiles. Snowmobile use has increased dramatically. As many as 1,700 snowmobiles enter the parks on peak days. Trail grooming and snowmobiling had an effect on the parks’ wildlife, especially bison. During the winter of 1996-97, park officials documents that large numbers of bison left the parks, some traveling along the main-made grooming trails created to facilitate snowmobile use. As a consequence of this migration, over 1,000 bison had to be killed to prevent the spread of brucellosis to livestock in areas outside of the parks. The Fund for Animals and other environmental groups objected to the snowmobile use, and in December 2000, the NPS capped snowmobile use for the winters of 2001-02 and 2002-03 and completely eliminated snowmobile use by the 2003-04 winter season. The NPS received 5,273 comments during the 30-day public comment period; over 4,300 of these comments supported the proposed phase-out rule. On January 22, 2001 the NPS published the final rule (“Snowmobile Rule” or “2001 Rule”), which allowed snowmobile use to continue in 2001-02 but mandated significant reductions in snowmobile use in 2002-03 and a complete elimination of snowmobile use, in favor of snowcoach use (“snowcoach is the NPS term intended to include all forms of mechanized snow vehicles, including snowmobiles), by the 2003-04 winter season. The 2001 Rule, promulgated by the Clinton administration, was published the day after President George W. Bush took office and was immediately stayed pending a review by new administration. Meanwhile, the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association filed suit, challenging the 2001 Rule as an unsupported decision to ban snowmobiling. The lawsuit called for the NPS to set aside the rules. In March 2002, the NPS issued another proposed rule. NPS received over 350,000 pieces of correspondence from the public; over 80 percent of the public comments supported the phase-out of snowmobiles. Despite this opposition, on November 18, 2002, one month before the phase-out was scheduled to go into effect, the NPS released a final rule delaying the implementation of the phase-out for an additional year. Snowmobiling use was allowed to continue unabated during the 2002-03 winter season. The Fund for Animals filed suit, challenging the postponement as arbitrary and capricious. Evaluate the action taken under the “arbitrary and capricious” standard. Be sure to note any other procedural issues in this rulemaking process.
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