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Public Land Issues

Public lands issues not only affect snowmobilers ability to access these precious areas. Anyone who wants to be able to have the right to access "public" lands for the purpose of recreation should be able to. Therefore, as snowmobilers, we feel it is our right to protect what is ours and yours -public land access. 
In an effort with local snowmobile clubs and the Idaho State Snowmobile Association, we have many individuals dedicated to the cause of public land issues. Sandra Mitchell, the Idaho State Snowmobile Association Public Lands Director, is well versed in this subject and has spent time with local people all the way up our national branch of the government discussing and fighting for our rights

For more information:
 Blue Ribbon Coalition

 Idaho Recreation Council
 Idaho State Snowmobile Association
Snowmobile Alliance of Western States

If you would like more information, contact your local snowmobile club or Sandra Mitchell: smitchel@alscott.com.

Public Land Update

By Sandra Mitchell

Again with Region 1’s policy of managing areas Recommended for Wilderness as Wilderness! I thought you might be interested in exactly what that means. Here is a chart I put together that spells it out.

In Region 1 there are two types of Wilderness; Congressional Designated and Administratively Created

Idaho:                                                                                                                                     Acres

Congressionally Designated Wilderness:                                                             4,796,559

Existing Recommended Wilderness Areas managed as Wilderness:     392,919

Only two Forests in Idaho are in Region 1; the Panhandle and the Nez Perce-Clearwater

The largest contiguous Wilderness in the lower 48 is in these two forests. (The Selway-Bitteroot, Gospel Hump, and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness)

The Nez Perce Clearwater Forest is in Forest Planning and additional acres may be designated RWA.

Montana:                                                                                                                               Acres

Existing Congressionally Designated Wilderness:                                           3,501.410

Existing Recommended Wilderness Areas managed as Wilderness:       866,000

Existing Montana Wilderness Study Areas managed as Wilderness:       100,000

Another 130,000 is proposed to be designated as RWAs in the Gallatin Forest Plan Revision

Another 500,000 is proposed to be designated as RWA’s in the Helena Lewis-Clark National Forest

Talking about issues that never seem to go away, here is another one: the Fairfield Winter Travel Plan. If you recall, many years ago at the request of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Fairfield Ranger District closed about 13.1 miles of groomed trail from Couch Summit to Fleck Summit because it ran beside an elk feeding ground.

ISSA made many attempts to convince the Forest Service the closure wasn’t necessary but the answer was always, “no, it’s staying closed”. Fast forward many years, the wolves discovered the area and the elk decided a free meal wasn’t worth it, so they moved on. Leadership in the Regional Fish and Game Department changed and they recommended the trail be opened to the general public. Because there is a great deal of private land beyond the trail, private property owners and their guests have been allowed to use the trail. The Forest issue a ROD recently that opened the 13.1 miles of trail and closed 85K+ acres. Those acres to be closed are currently open for snowmobiling in the Forest Plan. Although they are not a high use area they provide some amazing boondocking for the intermediate to advance riders. So the reason for the closure? Lynx, wolverine and mountain goat. There is no science that documents a negative impact on any of these critters from snowmobiling. 

ISSA filed an objection. The Objection hearing was held in November and a decision should be out in January. The next step is litigation.

Snowmobilers voted to support state legislation at the State Convention in November that would provide the opportunity for a two-year sticker, reduce the number of stickers from 2 to 1, and to increase the price of a sticker to $47.50 because of increased costs. The last increase was about 10 years ago.

Will have draft legislation out to everyone soon! Please let me know if you have questions or want more information.

New York Times Article - Oct 3, 2016

ISSA made news in the New York Times! Although this article does not convey the reality of how the snowmobile community respects the lands and wildlife of our country, it tells a story of a beautiful animal with whom we share our lands. This article has nothing to do with snowmobiling. It is another attempt to restrict access to public lands. We do not snowmobile with the Caribou. Nor do we encroach on there habitat. This article is one of the most bias reads that I have ever read. Judge for self and read on.

With respect to wildlife
Greg Davis Snowmobiler 

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Helpful Information About Our Lands

If you are curious about the land we ride on, check out www.fs.usda.gov/projects/ipnf/landmanagement/projects. They have the latest information about all current land projects.  Your comments on these projects are needed, your voice needs to be heard. Here are some local projects.  See right hand column to make comments.

Lands issues from Sandra Mitchell

By Sandra Mitchell

The Great Burn Saga goes on and on…….in case you have forgotten the long and colorful history of our efforts to protect snowmobiling there, let me bring you up to-date:
• The last Forest Plan in 1987 allowed snowmobiling in the Great Burn.
• An attempt was made to complete Forest Planning but because of a challenge to the then new Forest Planning Rule, it was stopped.
• The Forest then did Travel Planning. The signed Record of Decision prohibited snowmobiling in the Great Burn based on the Region 1 Policy of managing Recommended Wilderness as designated Wilderness.
• ISSA sued and won–but then lost….The Forest was required to issue a new decision. They did, but it was the same as the last—no go for snowmobiles in the Great Burn.
• In 2012 the Forest, now the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, began Forest Planning under the new Forest Planning Rule which requires the proposed action to be created with the use of a collaborative. Twenty-two all day Saturday meetings in either Grangeville or Orofino were held, and a proposed action developed and released in 2014. It included an alternative that allowed snowmobiling in the Great Burn. Although there were problems with
boundary line, we scored a victory by having it as an Alternative.
• The Planning Process was then put on hold because of fires and a change in Supervisors.
• Back to the travel plan: A Record of Decision for the Clearwater National Forest Travel Plan was signed on October 31,2017 and the decision was the same for snowmobiles in the Great Burn. The reason given, “In making this decision to eliminate most motorized travel within RWAs, I have given the most weight to the (Forest Plan) goal of retaining Wilderness character. Any area recommended for wilderness or wilderness study designation is not available for any use or activity that may reduce the wilderness potential of an area.”
• January 2018 the Forest Planning Process has begun again with more public meetings. This time the goal is to develop new alternatives.

I am not making any of this up! It ever gets stranger. In the “Preparing for Alternative Development” document that was given out last week, within the Recommended Wilderness Section, it says that summer/winter motorized uses are not allowed, bicycles and other mechanized forms of transportation are not suitable, however, wheeled carts (mechanized) for transport (including game carts) are suitable for the private user but not outfitters and guides, and motorized mechanized equipment (such as use of chain saws to clear trails) may be used to facilitate access of the area by the public. Seems contradictory and arbitrary!

There have been many times during this process when I have felt totally defeated. Then I remembered one of those annoyingly cute sayings that you see on T-shirts or bumper stickers and my discouragement turned to just disappointment. The saying is “It is better to fail at something that will ultimately succeed than to succeed at something that will ultimately fail.” I know, and you know, that there is no legitimate reason to not allow snowmobiling in the Great Burn. We will eventually prevail and return fair play and common sense to the Great Burn. So, in the meantime, I can live with these losses and the disappointment because I know we will ultimately succeed. There is of course one requirement for success and that is tenacity—we cannot give up. This is our fight and our responsibility. We know what is wrong and why it is wrong so we must continue to press the issue because you can bet, no one else will. So, give disappointment its’ due and then let’s get on with it!

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Next Club Meeting:

See you in October 2019

We had our last club meeting of the season. 

Got ideas for next season? Please come share & social with us.

Want to Volunteer?

We need your help with our 2019 summer projects:

  • ​Magee Warming Hut Repair
  • Skitwish Warming Hut completion
  • Build Wood-shed at Skitwish