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The U.S. Forest Service today denied a request from recreation groups asking that snowmobiles on national forest lands be managed under the same guidelines applied to all other classes of off-road vehicles. In August 2010, 90 organizations representing 1.3 million members filed a petition with the forest service and the Department of Agriculture formally requesting that the agency amend the 2005 Travel Management Rule, the framework used to designate routes, trails and areas on each national forest unit open to motorized use. Petitioners requested the removal of an exemption making management of over-snow vehicles optional while making designations for all other classes of off-road vehicles mandatory.

Forest Service Denies Request to Manage Snowmobiles Under Off-Road Vehicle Guidelines

The U.S. Forest Service today denied a request from recreation groups asking that snowmobiles on national forest lands be managed under the same guidelines applied to all other classes of off-road vehicles.

In August 2010, 90 organizations representing 1.3 million members filed a petition with the forest service and the Department of Agriculture formally requesting that the agency amend the 2005 Travel Management Rule, the framework used to designate routes, trails and areas on each national forest unit open to motorized use. Petitioners requested the removal of an exemption making management of over-snow vehicles optional while making designations for all other classes of off-road vehicles mandatory.

In denying the request, the forest service stated that the 2005 rule provides an “adequate mechanism for regulating over-snow vehicle use” and that national regulations for over-snow vehicle use are not required by law.

“Quiet recreation and responsible stewardship are getting the short end of the stick,” said Mark Menlove, executive director of Winter Wildlands Alliance, the organization leading the petition effort. “Our petition provided the legal and ecological rationale for the agency to restore balance between motorized and non-motorized use in winter and to meet their obligation to protect public lands for future generations. We’re disappointed that the agency continues to duck their responsibility.”

Menlove added that the decision sends mixed signals. “The petition response openly acknowledges that snowmobiles can have adverse impacts on air and water quality, native vegetation, fish and wildlife populations and habitat, and on other recreationists, and yet the agency refuses to include snowmobiles in the framework that has proven successful in managing all other motorized use.”

In denying the request to remove the over-snow vehicle exemption, the Forest Service did agree to develop guidelines or factors for local officials to consider if they choose to implement winter travel planning, but gave no timeline for when those directives might be announced. “We appreciate the offer to establish better guidelines,” said Menlove, “but guidelines are of little use without a directive to actually follow them.”

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Comments

  1. Dave Skinner says:

    Hey, it’s a free country (at least in theory), Jay. Happy to help, I guess you need it.
    By the way, SUWA is also on that list of “recreation” groups. Yah right.

  2. fenske says:

    “Just another attempt by the radical left to take over the forest. The only ones allowed to use public land are cc skiers and snowshoe folks. The usual crap.

    Snowmobiles ride on the snow and don’t leave ruts. The only thing wrong with snowmobiles is the lack of solitude they create for the cc folks.

    Granted, some areas could be left to cc skiers alone, but the whole forest?”

    Sounds just like the argument you make against Mountain Bikes, BS .

    That being said, there is plenty of room for Snow Machines and their riders deserve places to go as well.

  3. Robert Mullins says:

    The Petition was very reasonable for USFS lands management, actually it was a bit soft in asking. Here above posted are some of the same left v right comments, the same polarized meaningless ideas. I am conservative, live in the mountains, rode my snowmobile 600 miles this season, and I have skitoured in the backcountry over 60 days thus far this season. I see the abuses of some snowmobile riding on the Forest. I see the unacceptable lack of reasonable USFS management and the stunning polarization within USFS similar to this comment stream.This issue is about managing public lands for the true majority, and with concern for nature and recreational balance. The formidable big-money snowmobile lobby obviously intimidates USFS. However, increasing numbers of citizens are being aroused to this problem, this unreasonable situation. What the Petition asked was simply the right thing, and such management will eventually become the inevitable solution. In the meantime, the majority of citizens and Forest users are subject to lack of USFS management resulting in Snowmobile National Forests, subject to the tyranny of the minority of elitist offroad snowmobile riders and their sycophant tax-supported lobbyists in USFS.

  4. jed says:

    I think it would be best to restrict all forms of internal combustion engined to non-public areas–except highways…

  5. Frank says:

    Snowmobile use is regulated on the national forests. They are allowed in some areas and not in others. They are regulated differently from other “vehicles” because the conditions under which they operate are so different from other vehicles, e.g. they operate on snow! I suppose someone may take issue with what areas are open or what areas are closed, but the fact remains that snowmobile use is regulated by the Forest Service.

  6. Robert Mullins says:

    Frank,

    Will you please give us a reference for dispersed, undesignated offroad snowmobile riding? We have not found it in the literature of WA Forests. Specifically in USFS words we have found only, “Hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails plus un-groomed forest roads are available each winter for snowmobiling opportunities.” Also Frank, please refer us to ANY EIS for grromed or ungroomed snowmobile riding on the Forest. There must be some of those, most certainly none fo a lot of areas ridden!

    Frank the fact is, snowmobiles are allowed only where not restricted by closure. In most areas closures are few.

    USFS refuses to acknowledge the extent of snowmobiles overrunning the Forest and also refuses to manage snowmobile riding.

  7. martin says:

    I believe snowmobilers and skiers could coexist if everyone was mutually respectful. Just as a fisherman does not want some loudmouth splashing around the hole he is fishing, skiers want the opportunity to enjoy their recreation without disturbance. I am a skier who was raised in a snowmobiling family, and wish responsible users could be allowed the freedom to govern their own behavior.
    This issue is a human behavior problem, not an equipment problem.
    Laws are only effective if citizens obey them. Common courtesy and understanding is what we need, not more laws we can’t enforce.

  8. Sled Head says:

    Blaine County Idaho has designated ski and snow mobile areas, and trails, and it works out nicely, everyone sticks to their area, and we’re happy.

  9. Jordan says:

    Why don’t you CC skiers ride in the millions of acres of Wilderness and non-motorized Forest that each state provides? Why do you INSIST on riding in an area that snowmobilers also ride, and then complain about the noise when there are more non-motorized areas to ski in the mountains than motorized areas? The wilderness ares hold some of the best terrain in the country in which sleds can’t ride on.

    Go up to any snowmobile area in the summer time and tell me there is any evidence of snowmobiles on the landscape. You won’t find it. Thanks for trying to lie and convince the public that snowmobiles effect the surrounding soil, plants, animals, fish, etc…

    It’s public land plain and simple. Just because it’s not YOUR thing does not mean you have the right to jam your beliefs down peoples throats. It’s like Politics and Religion, there will never be a happy medium with the way people act with their self righteous arrogant/ignorant views.

  10. Dave Skinner says:

    Well, I guess this rantfest shows there is a basal-cell hatred of sleds by those claiming “science” as a reason for getting rid of sleds.
    No….it’s all emotion, all the time, with the lead emotion being selfishness.
    Back in my pinhead days, I had no qualms with sledders and their nice groomed ingress-egress routes, or the nice rope they’d chuck out that back for that long, semi-flat pull, or the nice cooler with the beer or the nice grill with the meat. Besides, I love the smell of Castrol on race day.

  11. Dave says:

    Well said Jordan!

  12. Sled Head says:

    I see the outfitters over this way transporting foods and beverages on trailers into those ski only zones behind snowmobiles, and rope towing cc skiers out into those places, and including snow boarders and Telemark skiers heading back to hit that powder. I’ve broken trail for them once or twice with my sled. They have some nice yurts tucked away back in the forest and out houses. We get along fine.

  13. Robert Mullins says:

    Since some of you may not hike, and you cannot ride your scooters in the same areas in summer, I understand that you do not see the damage to vegetation and even soils in some areas by snowmobiles. Not to mention the unseen 20 or 30 percent of fuel spewed on the ground in pristine unroaded areas.

    Aside from that, the effects of snowmobile riders to the majority of Forest users who seek quiet, non-motorized recreation in pristine areas is in itself a serious taking of the resource from other citizens.

    I do realize that some folks could not differentiate a Whitebark Pine from a rose bush, but I will let you know that one of them is soon to be listed as an Endangered Species. And, BTW, snowmobile riders are ‘encountering’ Whitebark Pine as they rip around pristine mountain areas with their long 160+ HP machines.

  14. Robert Mullins says:

    Indeed, public lands are for all of the public, not just for those who stand and lean on a machine while pushing a throttle. There are many more non-motorized users of the Forest, and we are denied use of the Forest in winter as a result of the unregulated takeover of the Forest by snowmobile riding.

  15. Sled Head says:

    The majority of riders avoid slopes with trees, or stay on trails through the tree covered slopes on the way to open terrain. Safer riding on open terrain. I’m fully aware of the white barked pine when I see them in winter or summer. Typically in this area those trees are to high and even our 160 HP sleds cannot go that high. I’ve noticed my skis slice off sage and pine needles/leaves, so maybe we should just ban all winter games.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitebark_Pine

  16. Sled Head says:

    And no, I’m not referring to my sleds skis. I board and cc ski also.

  17. Sled Head says:

    Same place I see helicopters dropping skiers onto peaks and ridges, the Pioneers, the Boulders, the Smoky Mountains, north of Sun Valley Idaho. Those outfitters are skiing outfitters. They have yurt permits. And designated areas for skiing and snow machining.

    I’ve never seen any of the abuses you are claiming around here in the mountain areas. But, the Liberals snot nosed brats coming out of Hailey to party on the back roads do leave similar messes behind.

  18. big sky says:

    Some of the most ridiculous arguments I have heard.

    Running over the elusive “white bark pine”. You really had to think to come up with that. We need to ban those damm bears from messing with those trees also. Lets stop rocks from rolling over them while we are it.

    Damage to soils and vegation by snowmobiles? Just as much by cc skiers, elk, more by moose……grasping at straws.

    Spilling gallons of gasoline on the trails? What world are you from? Never seen that, and I have been to the places where they race them. Hundreds of snowmobiles and no gallons of gas on the ground. You people are unbelievable.

    Sounds like the wolverine and wolf people. Best thing to do is leave them alone. Let the locals manage them. They have been doing it for years.

    Animals dead in crushed burrows? Yea, right.

    Enjoy the forest. Quit petitioning for stupid ideas and trying to make public land accesable to you alone.

  19. Sled Head says:

    Do the Federal Courts manage their bank account better than the other Federal agencies? Or are they relying on out of thin air funds like the rest of the Federal Empirical agencies do? Oh eventually you’ll be successful in forcing my sled into the bone pile, and I don’t really care, because I know when the science community comes forth with studies that prove skiing, snow shoeing, and hiking in National Forest and Wilderness lands is severely harmful to those lands, and some plant or bug is becoming endangered, we’ll argue over that and then they’ll win. Hands off only, no human activity on national lands is sustainable. Then we can argue about our encroaching front porches.

  20. CANNONMAN says:

    Why don’t the peeps who want everything closed take a look at the Grand Mesa here on the west slope. The cc skiers have designated areas and the sledders stay out of those areas and everyone gets along quite well. I have cc skiers stay here right next to sledders and there is absolutely no problems. Everyone gets what they want, perfect conditons for all. Lots of areas for skiers all over CO they don’t take advantage of, why do you see the need for more.

  21. CANNONMAN says:

    Jay, Hate to disagree, as IT DOES WORK I live here and see it daily on the Grand Mesa. Used to ride the Snowies (aka: Blowies) and the set up they have there is a joke and needs to be revamped. Use the Mesa as a copy if they have to. Very simple. As for sledders causing all the problems that is so false. Example, skiers just last weekend dug a pit 20′ long by about 8′ wide and over 3′ deep right around a corner on the snowmobile trail.. If someone had hit that it very much had the potential to seriously hurt someone if not kill them. So get off your high horse about the sledders causing the problems, the skiers are every bit if not more worse than any sledders I have seen. This is not the first time this has happened on Rabbit Ears either. I for one would love to catch the douchebag doing that.

  22. Snowsnob says:

    Yeah and non-motorized users harass motorized users too. I’ve heard of people getting stabbed with ski poles, yelled at while on a SNOWMOBILE trail that snowmobilers pay to get groomed. It goes both ways and if we cannot learn to play together we will get it all taken from us. Don’t think so, talk to a Mt. Biker or Kit Skier that NEVER thought they would get lumped in with motorized users. Once the enviros have turned everything into Wilderness Areas I will make it my one and only mission to make sure EVERYTHING mechanical is not allowed which will include ANY kind of skis or snowshoes and maybe even go as far as boots. You want to hike in a Wilderness Area you’ll have to do it barefoot.

  23. CANNONMAN says:

    My point exactly. Compromise does work and everyone can be happy. The Grand Mesa is a perfect example. To say it can’t possibly work is assinine, and if anyone thinks that, it is very ignorant.

  24. CANNONMAN says:

    Just reread the comment by Robert Mullins 3-31-11. Stupidest comment I have seen in quite a while. If the “public lands are for all the public” as you state why as sledders are we banned from certain areas. Skiers can go into wilderness areas but we can’t!!!!!!!!!!! If you think you are being “denied access” go into those areas and have a ball. Lots of terrain for you there. Why do you think you need more when you don’t utilize what you already have. Remember though when you get hurt or lost, Snomobilers won’t be able to get you out or find you. Sledders are denied areas not skiers!

  25. Brad Turner says:

    Hi everyone,
    Jay J was posting under several names so I’ve opted to remove the comments he posted, including those he left using the name Daniel Herber.
    For those of you who tried to have a reasonable discussion about the article, thank you for contributing. I think the thread has run its course so I’m closing it for now.
    Brad