The climate in D.C. regarding anti-snowmobile access issues is beginning to heat up

The results of the recent Congressional elections are going to have a monumental effect on access issues that are important to snowmobile enthusiasts in the Western United States.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, SAWS is not allowed to endorse politicians running for office. This is why you did not receive alerts from SAWS prior to the recent election in support of, or in opposition to, any of the candidates. SAWS does however have the right to complain, and complain loudly if needed, about how those we have elected to Congress decide to vote on issues that are important to snowmobilers. This editorial is intended to be a summary of facts regarding some political issues that may affect snowmobiling in the near future.

Politics – like abortion, religion, and war – is one of those issues that few will be able to agree on among their friends, or even between members of the same organizations such as SAWS, so therefore it is sometimes best to not discuss them at all. But it is an unfortunate fact that snowmobiling and politics go hand in hand. That being said, I thought I would attempt to provide some facts and some of my opinions related to how the results of this election may effect snowmobile access issues.

The majority party in the House and Senate win the right to appoint the Chair to the various committees. When the republicans were the majority in the 109th Congress, they appointed republican chairs to the committees. Now that the democrats will soon be in control during the 110th Congress, they will appoint democrats to chair these committees.

The House Committee on Resources is the committee in the House that reviews and decides whether new wilderness bills will be allowed to come out of the committee for a full House vote. Richard Pombo (R-CA) was the Chair of this committee. Over the last few years, he has blocked several wilderness bills from coming up for a vote; including Rick LarsenÔÇÖs (D-WA) Wild Sky Wilderness Bill (HR 851) (1) for a new 106,000 acre wilderness near Index, Washington, and several others wilderness bills in other western states. It is my opinion that the Wild Sky Wilderness bill WILL be voted into law in the 110th Congress without Mr. Pombo as the gatekeeper in this committee, and there is very little snowmobilers will be able to do to stop it. Mr. Pombo also voted to allow snowmobiles to continue using Yellowstone National Park (YNP).

Mr. Pombo, along with several other representatives supportive of snowmobile access issues, were targeted by several extreme green groups including the Defenders of Wildlife ( DOW, (2).refer to DOW information at the bottom of this email.) Many of these representatives, including Mr. Pombo, lost their bid for re-election. DOW has opposed snowmobile access to YNP, and was also a plaintiff in the recent lawsuit to ban snowmobiles from 300,000 acres around Priest Lake, Idaho, centered around the Caribou recovery issue. Thankfully, on Monday November 6, District Court Judge Robert Whaley, agreed to open back up a large portion of the area he previously had closed in September (3). Believe me when I say that the legal proceedings surrounding this issue are far from over. That is why SAWS voted last Wednesday to send $1500 in donated funds to BRC and ISSA to be split between their two legal action funds. This may not seem like a lot of money to some, but this donation was nearly 1/3 of the total donations that SAWS has received in 2006.

Several other very important issues to keep an eye on in the 110th Congress are the roadless bill that will be re-introduced by Jay Inslee (D-WA) (4), the 300,000 acre Idaho wilderness bill titled the ÔÇ£Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation ActÔÇØ that will be re-introduced by Mike Simpson (R-ID) (5), the Rockies Prosperity Act, better known as the Yellowstone to Yukon project (6), and of course the ongoing saga to close snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park.

I realize that there are many other issues that are very important to snowmobilers, but I felt it was important to inform our SAWS members of the snowmobile related situations we face as a direct result of the election that will plague us for the next two years of the 110th Congress.

Dave Hurwitz
Chairman ÔÇô Snowmobile Alliance of Western States


1 – Wild Sky (2005)

ÔÇ£This year, during the 109th Congress, is the third year the Wild Sky Wilderness bills have been introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D, WA) and Rep. Rick Larsen (D, WA-2). The Senate bill has passed both times but the house bill has died in the House Resource Committee thanks to Rep. Richard Pombo (R, CA-11) We are hopeful that with help from multiple-use recreationists across the country, the third time will not be the charmÔÇØ

2 – Democrats’ green agenda gets big boost (11/10/06)

┬áÔÇ£Pombo was swept from office Tuesday in an election that put Democrats in control of Congress and left environmentalists optimistic they’ll see more money for parks, progress on Puget Sound cleanup, and creation of a new wilderness area in Snohomish CountyÔÇØ.

3 ÔÇô Caribou Issue (11/6/06)

4 ÔÇô National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Act (HR3563 ÔÇô 2005)

ÔÇ£To maintain the roadless character and values of the areas in accordance with the final rule and record of decision published in the Federal Register on January 12, 2001ÔÇØ

5 – CIEDRA (HR3603 – 2005)

6 ÔÇô Rockies Prosperity Act (HR1204 ÔÇô 2005)

ÔÇ£To designate as wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, national park and preserve study areas, wild land recovery areas, and biological connecting corridors certain public lands in the States of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming, and for other purposesÔÇØ.

A few other links just for fun:

Bush Administration Allows More Snowmobile Use in Yellowstone

ÔÇ£The Bush decision was based solely on the opposition of the snowmobile industry and ignored the wishes of the vast number of Americans who want to experience the peaceful tranquility of the park in wintertime and minimize harassment of the park’s wildlifeÔÇØ.

Northwest Conservationists Seek Balance in Caribou Habitat

ÔÇ£Plaintiff groups involved in the litigation include the Selkirk Conservation Alliance, Idaho Conservation League, The Lands Council, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological DiversityÔÇØ.

Wolverines aren’t evil, just feistyÔÇöand overlooked

ÔÇ£But increased winter recreation is decreasing this security. Snowmobile use has grown exponentially in the northern Rockies over the past 20 years. So-called “high-marking,” when snowmobilers gun their machines straight up the steep slopes of alpine basins, is a popular and virtually unregulated sportÔÇØ.