ALERT: Idaho Panhandle National Forest Land Management Plan

SAWS Action Alert

Comment Deadline: September 9, 2006

(Sorry for the late notice on this IPNF Land Management Plan. SAWS completed this alert late on September 7. Even if you cannot submit your comments by September 9 due to time constraints, we strongly encourage you to submit them as soon after this date as you can). 

Send Comments to:

    KIPZ Proposed Land Management Plan
    Idaho Panhandle National Forest
    3815 Schreiber Way
┬á┬á┬á Coeur dÔÇÖAlene, ID 83815


The full Proposed Land Management Plan can be found here, though I wouldnÔÇÖt try reading much of it unless you canÔÇÖt sleep:

Please include ÔÇ£Idaho Panhandle NF Proposed Land Management PlanÔÇØ in the subject line of your email; and remember to sign with your name and address.

The Idaho Panhandle and Kootenai (Montana) National Forests released their proposed land management plans back in May.  As much as we would like to write a form letter for everyone to sign and send, we want our comment letters to be counted as original.  The Forest Service only counts original comment letters.  If they receive multiple copies of the same letter only one is counted.

A good way to begin your comment letter is to state a few sentences about yourself, and how you have utilized the area in the past.  If you have never been there, you can get right to the point.  SAWS would like for you to include some or all of the points that follow, as well as any original statements you might have in your comments to the Forest Service.  Copy and paste them, reword them a little and rearrange them.  

  • Recommended wilderness areas (RWA), which are designated as Management Area (1b) in this plan, are just that, RECOMMENDED!┬á There is no legal requirement to close any RWA to snowmobiling.┬á The policy of the Region 1 Forester appears to be that of exclusion, not management.┬á There is no hard proof that snowmobiling alters the standards in which RWAÔÇÖs must be maintained in the event that they one day may become congressionally designated wilderness.┬á Complaining about noise is not a standard; it is an individualÔÇÖs personal value.´┐¢
  • Tell the Forest Service that the 129,700 acres of RWAs – MA (1b), must remain open to snowmobile use. Snowmobiling does not affect wilderness characteristics because our tracks disappear with the melting snow each spring.´┐¢
  • Activities CURRENTLY allowed in “Recommended Wilderness” in the IPNF are; Snowmobile use; Public maintenance of trails with power tools; Trail maintenance access via motorized means; and Mountain bike usage of trail systems. The new Forest Plan disallows these activities. In no way do these activities alter the land in a detrimental manner which would diminish wilderness character should Congress vote to designate these specific areas as wilderness in the future.´┐¢
  • For the most part this plan treats winter and summer motorized recreation as one in the same.┬á Only the 21,300 acres designated as Primitive Lands – MA (1e) allow winter snowmobile use where summer motorized use is not allowed. Even Forest Service policy documents that there is quite a difference, as evidenced in the 2005 OHV Rule.┬á´┐¢
  • In the response to comments on the 2005 OHV Rule, the USFS states ÔÇ£the Department believes that cross-country use of snowmobiles presents a different set of management issues and environmental impacts than cross-country use of other types of motor vehicles.ÔÇØ┬á They further state ÔÇ£A snowmobile traveling over snow results in different impacts to natural resource values than motor vehicles traveling over the ground. Unlike other motor vehicles traveling cross-country, over-snow vehicles traveling cross-country generally do not create a permanent trail or have a direct impact on soil and ground vegetation. Therefore, the Department believes that use by oversnow vehicles should be addressed in separate regulatory provisions and that mandatory designation of use by oversnow vehicles is not appropriate.ÔÇØ┬á Forest Service Chief Bosworth approved the schedule for implementation of this rule on June 8, 2006.┬á So if USFS policy makes this distinction, why has the IPNF ignored it?´┐¢
  • On page 2-27, under the Motorized Recreation section, the second paragraph lumps summer and winter motorized recreation together. It states that “motorized recreation is generally suitable on designated routes and in designated areas”.┬á Snowmobiling has not been confined to designated routes and areas. It is impractical for the Forest Service to attempt to do so, and is not required by current Forest Service policy and regulations.┬á These two types of uses must be addressed separately.┬á The Priest Lake Winter Recreation Trails Map referred to in this paragraph is incomplete, inaccurate and misleading. It should not be used for forest planning purposes.´┐¢
  • Policy direction from the Forest ServiceÔÇÖs Washington Office calls for the Forest Service to better manage the increasing demand for motorized recreation opportunities on our public lands.┬á The current mindset seems to equate better management with use restrictions and closures.┬á This is unfortunate because better management should mean increasing not decreasing opportunities for these popular uses of the national forests.┬á Closures are the easy way out.┬á´┐¢
  • Congress designates wilderness areas, not Forest Service employees revising a management plan.┬á To manage these areas as de-facto wilderness is inappropriate outside of designated wilderness.┬á Roadless areas can be managed to preserve their so-called roadless character without infringing on winter recreation.┬á The FS is required to manage recommended wildernesses and wilderness study areas in a manner that doesnÔÇÖt impair their future designation.┬á However, that doesnÔÇÖt mean that they should be managed for solitude or non-motorized recreation only.´┐¢
  • Table 13, pp 2-13 states that winter motorized recreation is not a suitable use for RWAs – MA (1b).┬á Yet portions of RWAs throughout the IPNF have been traditional snowmobiling areas for many years.┬á Further, Table 14, pp 2-14 shows that the one Congressionally Designated Wilderness Study Area IS suitable for winter motorized recreation.┬á The plan states ÔÇ£Activities, practices, and management actions that do not protect wilderness characteristics may be limited or prohibited. Existing uses that were in place prior to acquisition by the Forest Service will continue.ÔÇØ┬á The management practice for this WSA is completely contradictory to that of managing RWAs yet the goal of management is the same.┬á If snowmobiling does not impair the wilderness characteristics of a WSA, what makes the FS think snowmobiling impairs RWAs, lands that are only differentiated from WSAs by a letter of the alphabet?
  • The plan currently calls for 129,700 acres of Recommended Wilderness – MA (1b), 35,500 acres Special Interest Areas – MA (3), and 14,100 acres Research Natural Areas – MA (4a). This 179,300 acres will become closed to snowmobile use for no valid reason. These MAs must remain open to snowmobile use.┬á┬á

The bottom line is Forest Service employees are after more wilderness management for non-wilderness areas.  Idaho has 4 million acres of wilderness.  That is enough.

Thank you all for your interest in and dedication to protecting YOUR right to ride.

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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