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Court Rules Could Affect Snowmobiling Access

By John Prusak

Snowmobile access to a large national forest along the Montana/Idaho border is again the subject of court proceedings after an appeals court this week shot down a U.S. Forest Service winter use plan for the area.

Snowmobile access was granted by the 2010 forest plan in 2 million acres of the Montana’s Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, but now the court has ruled that the Forest Service acted improperly when putting together that plan.

According to various media reports, including this one in the Missoulian newspaper, the court sided with three different environmental groups which sought an injunction based on feeling that the Forest Service failed to fully analyze the impact snowmobiles would have on wildlife in the forest. Beyond that, there were also questions as to whether the Forest Service properly publicized the data is had.beaverhead

The ruling means the Forest Service may have to get busy writing a new winter travel plan. And that, in turn, means that snowmobilers are going to want to make sure their voices are heard in the process.

The Montana Snowmobiling Association and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association both served as defendants in the recent court case – which was filed in 2013 by the WildEarth Guardians, Friends of the Bitterroot and Montanans for Quiet Recreation environmental organizations – and will likely be drawn in again. But it shouldn’t stop there, according to Ed Klim, president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association.

Klim told Snow Goer that the court ruling doesn’t necessarily mean that there are conflicts between the snowmobilers who ride in the area and the animal population, it just means it should be further studied. And that, in turn, means that snowmobilers should be prepared to get involved.

“This can serve as a wake-up call to the local snowmobilers,” Klim said. “They will need to get involved in the forest’s re-do plan.”

Later Klim added, “We also need the dealers to show up. This is their backyard. They know the area and should know the local Forest Service folks. They can also encourage people to show up, because folks on the other side will show up.”

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