In my dealings with individual national forests, it seems to me like many of the skier/snowmobiler conflicts are handled locally, which makes a certain amount of sense. And could more forest-wide planning really be the solution (to anything, really, but…)? Because at the end of the day, we will have lots of taxpayer-funded hours generating documents that might come to the same conclusions about the specific areas of conflict.
Reading the paper, it seems like we are in tough budget times. Is this really the highest and best use of taxpayer dollars?
Plus these would have to be funded by scarce recreation funds that could be going to campgrounds, trails, or even managing motorized use on the ground where the conflicts occur (If I’m wrong about this, please enlighten me)?.
What I like about the quotes in this article is that the director of Winter Wildlands Alliance, Mr. Menlove, is direct and honest about using the courts as a tactic to change policy. See the quote “we think that the quiet is a resource that should be managed” below.
Here’s the link and here are some excerpts:
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Early-season snow just dusts the peaks above Idaho’s capital, but a courtroom battle down in the valley could have a big impact on who gets to ride where on the accumulating white powder.
A backcountry skier advocacy group, the Idaho-based Winter Wildlands Alliance, will ask a federal judge Wednesday to force the U.S. Forest Service to create plans for snowmobiles limiting their travel on public land — a decision that would apply to national forests all over the country.
National forests since 2005 have been required to craft travel management plans restricting wheeled cross-country travel to designated routes. But snowmobiles were exempted, as the agency allowed individual national forests the freedom to decide if such winter travel plans were necessary.
Some forests created them, including the Clearwater National Forest in north central Idaho. Others, such as neighboring Nez Perce National Forest, begged off.
Absent any consistency, alliance director Mark Menlove speaks of tense outings in places like the Boise National Forest, where hordes of powerful motorized sleds unrestrained by a winter travel plan sometimes roar past panting groups of backcountry skiers, disturbing their icy, human-driven idyll.
“One snowmobile can track up an area in an hour that a dozen skiers could use for two weeks,” said Menlove. “It is a competition for a limited resource. Beyond untracked powder, we also think that quiet is a forest resource that should be managed.”
I also thought this was interesting…
That rule, they argue, was clearly meant to target wheeled vehicles that many natural resource managers said were tearing up public land. Snowmobiles are simply different, the lawyers said.
“An over-snow vehicle … results in different and less severe impacts on natural resource values than wheeled motor vehicles traveling over the ground,” wrote assistant U.S. attorney Julie Thrower, asking Bush to reject Menlove’s group’s claims.
From his Boise office, Menlove counters his group — dubbed an advocate for “human-powered snow sport enthusiasts” — filed its federal lawsuit only as a last resort, after the Forest Service rejected its out-of-court bid to have the snowmobile exemption lifted.
So they seem pretty upfront that they want to add snowmobiles to the travel management rule, and so they are using a legal path. Not so much “the FS is breaking the law” although there must be those kinds of claims in the complaint.
“One snowmobile can track up an area in an hour that a dozen skiers could use for two weeks,” said Alliance Director Mark Menlove. “It is a competition for a limited resource. Beyond untracked powder, we also think that quiet is a forest resource that should be managed.”
Note: back to our previous thread, sounds like these folks in Idaho, who know little about say, the White Mountain, will, through litigation, possibly be setting national policy. Having your comments weighed with others is not necessarily the most impactful way to promote your (non-local) point of view. Yes, public comments were taken nationally on the national travel management rule.