ALERT: Tilbury Trail/South Fowl Lake Snowmobile trail reroute

SAWS Action Alert

Comments due by December 16, 2005 

Send your comments to:

Dennis Neitzke
2020 W. Highway 61
Grand Marais MN 55604

Fax: 218-387-3246


This issue came to SAWS from one of our members in Minnesota. He is very concerned about the re-opening of the comment period for the Tilbury Trail/South Fowl Lake Snowmobile trail reroute. This will be our first alert from outside the western United States. Because many people from throughout the country come out west to snowmobile, SAWS has seen its membership grow substantially outside of the western United States, particularly in the Midwest. They have been writing letters to help us with our issues out west, so we feel we should do likewise for their issues. Please help our fellow snowmobilers in Minnesota.

The Forest Service, Superior National Forest, Gunflint Ranger District, is preparing an Environmental Assessment for the South Fowl Lake Snowmobile Access project. The proposed action description and other information are available for review at Gunflint Ranger District office, 2020 W. Highway 61, Grand Marais, MN 55604.  Additional information regarding this action can be obtained from Terry Eggum, Ph: 218-663-8085, Email:

This opportunity for comment on the project is in addition to the earlier 60 day comment period provided with the initial scoping process on this project.  The purpose of the present comment period is to provide an opportunity for public participation on a proposed action prior to a decision by the Responsible Official. Those who provide substantive comments during either of the comment periods are eligible to appeal the decision pursuant to 36 CFR part 215 regulations.

Dave Hurwitz
Snowmobile Alliance of Western States

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The majority of locals who use this trail want the Forest Service to choose ÔÇ£Alternative 2 Modified North RouteÔÇØ

This reroute is being obstructed by the Sierra Club. Although there was a public comment period in the summer of 2004, this project has been opened again for comment. Why? Because the Sierra Club had people send hundreds of comments asking for it.

We canÔÇÖt let the Sierra Club, Friends of the Boundary Waters, Northeastern MN for Wilderness, etc. win this one! This isnÔÇÖt about rerouting a snowmobile trail. This is another sneaky way to gain more non-motorized forest. REMEMBER THE VEGETABLE LAKES!!!!! ┬áThis trail reroute is within 2,000 feet from the BWCAW at its closest point. The Sierra Club says thatÔÇÖs too close. So, beware cabin owners, loggers, and trail users who are within that zone. If the Sierra Club successfully blocks this trail, it will set a precedent for a 2,000 foot buffer zoneÔÇöa de facto expansion of the wilderness!

If you support the locals who want a small, scenic, trail to replace what was lost, tell the US Forest Service. If you want to stop the creeping spread of non-motorized areas tell the Forest Service. ItÔÇÖs easy ÔÇô just pick one of these letters below, change it a little & send it in!

*******SAMPLE 1 ******************

Gunflint District Ranger
Dennis Neitzke
2020 W. Highway 61
Grand Marais MN 55604

Dear Mr. Neitzke:

As an avid snowmobiler, I am writing in favor of Alternative 2: Modified North Route. I support this trail reroute because it is closest to the original snowmobile trail (the Tilbury Trail) which had been in use for over 40 years without any impact to threatened, endangered, and sensitive wildlife and plants.

A very small portion of the Tilbury Trail ran into the Boundary Waters. The Forest Service’s oversight for close to 30 years has lead to this reroute.┬á The Forest Service should have completed this trail reroute back in 1978 when the Boundary Waters Wilderness boundaries were changed.┬á At that time, money was available, according to the 1978 BWCA Wilderness Act, to create trails outside of the Boundary Waters to compensate for trails lost within the Boundary Waters.

The sensitive plants┬áwill not be harmed because this is a snowmobile trail ÔÇô to be used in the winter only. ÔÇ£Soil Resource ImpactsÔÇØ should not be a problemÔÇöthe ground will be frozen! This is a snowmobile trail!

This trail reroute is a snowmobile trail, not an ATV trail.  It will move the trail outside of the Boundary Waters.  Proper signage and enforcement will assure it remains a snowmobile trail. 

Alternative 2: Modified North Route will provide the best and least costly solution for the Tilbury Trail reroute.


 ***********SAMPLE 2 ************************

Gunflint District Ranger
Dennis Neitzke
2020 W. Highway 61
Grand Marais MN 55604

Dear Ranger Neitzke:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the South Fowl Lake Snowmobile Access project.  I support Alternative 2: Modified North Route.  I want to see this route used because it is most like the historic Tilbury Trail that it is replacing.

Threatened, endangered, and sensitive wildlife and plants havenÔÇÖt been┬áharmed┬áin all the years snowmobilers used the Tilbury Trail.┬á┬áThe new North Route is more favorable as it has less compacted snow area than the other routes.┬á There is very little impact to sensitive plants and animals with winter use.

Local ATVers know to stay off this trail.  The Tilbury Trail had been a snowmobile trail, and the new reroute will remain a snowmobile trail.  The Forest Service can sign the trail to let out-of-towner ATVers know not to use the trail.

There are already many natural clearings along the proposed trail. The vegetation along the northern route is young trees and brush, which will quickly grow up and make a new canopy to hide the trail.  There will be no fragmentation of the forest.

There is very little interaction between snowmobilers and hikers or skiers and if there is, it is only for minutes at a time.┬á This northern trail reroute is protecting the BWCAW, by moving the trail outside of the ÔÇ£wilderness,” thus┬áprotecting ÔÇ£Wilderness ValuesÔÇØ.┬á┬á

As a snowmobiler, I really don’t think a trail running alongside the Arrowhead Trail, as in ÔÇ£Alternative 3 South RouteÔÇØ, is safe alternative.┬á┬á┬áMost snowmobilers traveling from McFarland to South Fowl Lake would rather have a safer trail through the woods.