ALERT: Kootenai National Forest Land Management Plan

SAWS Action Alert

Comment Deadline: September 9, 2006

Send comments to:

    KIPZ Proposed Land Management Plan
    Kootenai National Forest
    1101 Highway 2 West
    Libby, Mt. 59923


You must state in the subject line that your comment is for the Kootenai National Forest Land Management Plan. We hope to soon be able to provide you with a SAWS Action Alert for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest Land Management Plan. Comments for the IPNF should also be sent to the same address above. Information on both plans can be found at the Forest Service link below.

Detailed information, including a scoping map, is available here:

This Kootenai National Forest (KNF) Proposed Land Management Plan is sticking to the recent Forest Service trend throughout the Western United States; recommending that many more acres of land be closed to snowmobile use and other forms of multiple-use and instead be set aside and treated as de-facto wilderness. This plan should really be called a Wilderness Plan.  The Troy Snowmobile Club, Libby County Sno-Cats and the Kootenai Ridge Riders have been very active in educating the local public on how this plan will affect their favorite riding areas. Some of their suggestions are contained below.

The agency recognizes throughout their documents that the increased uses of these public lands will only continue to rise.  But instead of managing these lands to promote these uses, they are recommending to restrict the use by the majority of the users and create a wild land mecca for our non-motorized counterparts.  Add the Beaverhead, the Bitterroot/Flathead/Lolo, and Gallatin Forest Service plans and you have the initial stages of the Yellowstone to the Yukon (Y2Y) environmental movement.  The following years will only serve to expand this extreme movement to remove access to our public lands by motorized recreationists unless we can put a stop to this madness.

In all of the agency documents they refer to “User Conflicts.”┬á This is an agency created term used to accommodate the non-motorized community – the small minority – and restrict the winter motorized community – the majority – and relinquish management requirements for multiple use areas.

This Plan is using a long list of confusing and restrictive designations. The 124,400 acres recommended as Wildlands (1d) will be treated no differently than Recommended Wilderness Areas (RWA) in other forest plans all across Forest Service Region One. ItÔÇÖs a fancy new name but it means the same thing; they will be treated as de-facto wilderness and closed to snowmobile use. ┬áThis is unacceptable! The Management Area Themes (MA) are:┬á

  • 1a Designated Wilderness
  • 1c Wilderness Study Areas
  • 1d Wildlands
  • 2b Eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers
  • 3┬á ┬áSpecial Interest Areas (Aquatic, Botanical, Ecological, Geological, Heritage Resource, ┬á

                    Pioneer, Recreational, Scenic, Traditional/Cultural, Zoological)

  • 4a┬á Established and Proposed Research Natural Areas
  • 5a ┬áBackcountry-Nonmotorized summer and winter
  • 5b ┬áBackcountry-Motorized summer and winter
  • 5c ┬áBackcountry-Nonmotorized summer and motorized winter
  • 6┬á┬á General Forest
  • 7┬á┬á Primary Recreation Areas

    KNF management areas and acreage

1a Non-Motorized 93,500
1c Non-Motorized 34,100
1d Non-Motorized 124,400
2b Typically Non-Motorized 43,900
3 Non-Motorized 59,300
4a Non-Motorized 8,400
5a Non-Motorized 204,400
15c Non-Motorized 73,500
Total Non-Motorized 641,500
25b Motorized 140,900
26 Motorized 1,422,900
27 Motorized 12,300
Total Motorized 1,576,100

*These numbers are figured from the three strategy sections of the Management Plan (Pg 2-10).

1 Though this does allow winter motorized on this Management Plan, it has been added to the non-motorized due to the implications this could have on snowmobilers in future agency planning processes.

2 This designation is heavily regulated and restrictive to motorized use.

Recommendations from the local clubs that address the proposed closures are listed below. You may wish to include some of their language in your comment letter: 

  • Change the (5a) designation to (5c) in the Willard Estelle IRA #173 known as Benning Mountain.
  • Change the (5a) designation to (5c) in that portion of the Scotchman Peaks IRA #662 known as Cliff Creek and Cheer Creek.
  • Change the (5a) designation to (5c) in that portion of the Scotchman Peaks IRA #662 known as Spruce Lakes/Drift Peak.
  • Change the Roberts IRA #691 from (5a) to (5c).
  • Changes addressed by the clubs concerning specific wording in some MAÔÇÖS to clarify and guarantee access.

As you are aware, SAWS does not support ANY closures to snowmobile use areas without a valid reason, and the Forest Service would be hard pressed to find any valid reasons in this plan. SAWS recommends that you include in your comment letter some of the following information:

  • The 124,400 acres recommended as Wildlands (1d), must remain open to snowmobile use. There is no substantive evidence of snowmobiles negatively impacting this area. Wildlands areas should not be closed to snowmobiling.┬á At the very worst, snowmobiling does not affect wilderness characteristics because our tracks disappear with the melting snow every spring.
  • All of the non-big game winter range areas that are not already identified and closed to snowmobiles in the current plan must be moved from (5a) to (5c).
  • There is no forest service requirement to close Wildlands (1d) designated areas to snowmobile use. The Forest Service needs to use real science and data when implementing these management plans, instead of acting on the whims of those vocal few that share the exclusive use ideology that preaches locking everyone out of the forest that do not share these same narrow-minded values.
  • The existing Forest Plan has 93,500 acres of Designated Wilderness (4% of this forest).┬á This Proposed plan INCREASES non-motorized exclusive use opportunities by a total of 21%.┬á┬á Specific National Visitor Use Monitoring data for the KNF shows that there were 1,249,397 total site visits in FY 2003 to this forest and only 16,428 wilderness visits.┬á So this means that only 1% of the forest users will have 25% of the forest all to themselves and maintain access to 100% of the same.

Be aware that the 34,100 acres in MA (1c) is the Ten Lakes Wilderness Study Area. This area, along with thousands of surrounding acres designated as MA (1d) and MA (3), has been proposed by the Montana Wilderness Association to become part of the 171,000 acre Winton Weydemeyer Wilderness.  The Montana Snowmobile Association hosts the Trans Montana Ride in support of Montanans with MS each year and that ride starts in Eureka, Mt. in this Wilderness Study Area.  This ride averages $30,000.00 in donations annually which makes it the Montana Snowmobile Associations largest fund raiser.

This is a very lucrative plan for our Wilderness promoting counterparts in the Western United States.  If implemented as proposed, our children and grandchildren will be loosing out on recreating opportunities in Western Montana.  If adopted, this plan will open the door for the next round of planning to occur in approximately 15 years, removing yet larger blocks of public land from being accessible to the majority of the public.

Snowmobile Alliance of Western States

Protecting the right to ride for the owners of 303,604 registered snowmobiles (2005) in the western United States.

Copyright ┬® 2006 Snowmobile Alliance of Western States. All Rights Reserved.

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