The trend continues – technology makes it easier for more people to get farther into the less trammeled parts of public lands. Good planning would project future changes in technology over the life of a plan and – plan for it. I haven’t researched this question directly, but my impression is that winter travel planning (required by Forest Service regulations) mostly responds to the current state of technology. I’ve even seen statements like, “we don’t need to worry about closing these areas,” or at least “we don’t need to worry about people complaining if we close these areas,” because people can’t get to them. What happens when that is no longer true? NEPA requires consideration of new information relevant to environmental impacts, which may lead to changing a decision.
“Snowbikes” – I imagine there are some national forests that ought to be thinking about going back to the drawing board on their winter travel management plans (and maybe forest plans). Especially where there are snow-dependent species like lynx and wolverine that are listed under ESA (where new information must be consulted on) or at risk of being listed (and regulatory mechanisms are a consideration).
“After Polaris bought Timbersled in 2015, that’s when things took off,”
“The snowbike market is in its infancy right now, but it’s exploding,”
“It’s a riot,” “You can make your own line wherever you want to go.”
“They’re so agile,” “You’re able to get into places you never would get into with a snowmobile.”
“It’s just like riding a dirt bike in the woods,”
“For those who have never ridden a snow bike, the best analogy I can think of is this; it is like riding a Jet Ski on sand dunes. There is a freedom unlike anything else I have ever done.”