NEWS: Forest Service Denies Request to Manage Snowmobiles Under Off-Road Vehicle Guidelines

SAWS has been unable to verify the accuracy of statements made in the article below from with more reliable sources, but for now we will assume this information is correct and we are pleased with the results. We felt our members would also be pleased and interested to know about the apparent result of this petition.

If true, this would be the only correct, logical and legal response the Forest Service (FS) could provide in regards to this petition. After-all, the petition was against the 2005 Travel Management Rule (TMR). Hello, but the comment period for the 2005 TMR ended many, many years ago. There was no current comment period for the FS to accept this petition and change the implemented TMR, without violating FS rules and regulations.

Here is the recent article from

Forest Service Denies Request to Manage Snowmobiles Under Off-Road Vehicle Guidelines
Petition backed by 90 organizations and filed last year ends with today’s decision.

By Jule Banville, 3-29-11

The U.S. Forest Service today denied a request from recreation groups asking that snowmobiles on national forest lands be managed under the same guidelines applied to all other classes of off-road vehicles.

In August 2010, 90 organizations representing 1.3 million members filed a petition with the forest service and the Department of Agriculture formally requesting that the agency amend the 2005 Travel Management Rule, the framework used to designate routes, trails and areas on each national forest unit open to motorized use. Petitioners requested the removal of an exemption making management of over-snow vehicles optional while making designations for all other classes of off-road vehicles mandatory.

In denying the request, the forest service stated that the 2005 rule provides an ÔÇ£adequate mechanism for regulating over-snow vehicle useÔÇØ and that national regulations for over-snow vehicle use are not required by law.

ÔÇ£Quiet recreation and responsible stewardship are getting the short end of the stick,ÔÇØ said Mark Menlove, executive director of Winter Wildlands Alliance, the organization leading the petition effort. ÔÇ£Our petition provided the legal and ecological rationale for the agency to restore balance between motorized and non-motorized use in winter and to meet their obligation to protect public lands for future generations. WeÔÇÖre disappointed that the agency continues to duck their responsibility.ÔÇØ

Menlove added that the decision sends mixed signals. ÔÇ£The petition response openly acknowledges that snowmobiles can have adverse impacts on air and water quality, native vegetation, fish and wildlife populations and habitat, and on other recreationists, and yet the agency refuses to include snowmobiles in the framework that has proven successful in managing all other motorized use.ÔÇØ

In denying the request to remove the over-snow vehicle exemption, the Forest Service did agree to develop guidelines or factors for local officials to consider if they choose to implement winter travel planning, but gave no timeline for when those directives might be announced. ÔÇ£We appreciate the offer to establish better guidelines,ÔÇØ said Menlove, ÔÇ£but guidelines are of little use without a directive to actually follow them.ÔÇØ

I have also included our previous SAWS email below regarding this petition that we sent our members in October, 2010.

Snowmobile Alliance of Western States


As many of you are aware, Winter Wildlands Alliance (WWA) convinced numerous other anti-snowmobile groups to sign a petition that they recently presented to the Forest Service requesting that the snowmobile exemption in the 2005 Travel Management Plan be removed. If this exemption were to be removed, snowmobiles would be restricted to only certain designated trails and roads, with very limited or off-trail travel prohibited in all national forests across the United States.

SAWS has been following this issue very closely. And of course SAWS does not support this proposal. If, at some time in the future SAWS determines there is a productive course of action that our members should take in regards to this proposal, we will certainly let you know by means of a SAWS Action Alert.

As a reminder, SAWS does not support additional snowmobile closures, whether it be for new wilderness designations or other exclusive use designations that prevent snowmobile use. It is our position that there are currently plenty of areas where snowmobiles are not allowed, where those that seek ÔÇ£quiet recreationÔÇØ can recreate. These areas include the current 109.5 million acres of existing wilderness.

You often hear the word ÔÇ£collaborationÔÇØ used when anti-snowmobile groups wish to talk about sharing our public lands. But what this word really means to the anti-snowmobile groups is how much land we can get the snowmobilers to agree to move into the non-motorized column. A portion of our SAWS Principles states ÔÇ£SAWS supports the Webster dictionary definition of a compromise. That is; “a settlement in which each side makes concessions”. We do not believe in coming to the table to discuss how much we are willing to give up. Instead, we believe the discussions needs to start from the standpoint of what new areas they are willing to open for snowmobilers, in exchange for closing an area currently open to snowmobilersÔÇØ. When was the last time you heard a anti-snowmobile organization agree to open a closed area for any reason?

I have included an article below describing this petition and also one of the WWA Press Releases that lists the organizations that have signed their petition. SAWS suggests that our members take a close look at the organizations that signed this petition, and be sure to add them to your list of organizations that you do not wish to support.

Snowmobile Alliance of Western States


Groups petition snowmobile exemption
Posted: Monday, Oct 4th, 2010
By Derek Farr

A coalition of 90 conservation organizations with 1.3 million members is petitioning the federal government to strengthen its regulatory power over snowmobiles.

In the 32-page petition, the leading advocacy group Winter Wildlands Alliance (WWA) asked the Forest Service (FS) to regulate snowmobiles under the same rules as off-road vehicles.

ÔÇ£This is a matter of fairness and consistency,ÔÇØ said WWA Executive Director Mark Menlove. ÔÇ£We acknowledge that snowmobiles are a popular winter use and that they have their place on national forest lands. But the current ÔÇÿanything goesÔÇÖ approach to winter management allows one user group to dominate the winter landscape at the expense of all others and it puts fragile winter ecosystems at risk.ÔÇØ

Specifically, the petition asks the FS to repeal a 2005 Travel Management Rule exempting snowmobiles from regulations that limit motorized travel to designated areas, roads and trails.

In addition, the WWA recommends regulations that would establish areas for ÔÇ£quiet winter recreationÔÇØ and minimum snow depths for snowmachine operation.

Not surprisingly, snowmobile enthusiasts oppose the petition.

ÔÇ£This places us in the all-too-familiar position of justifying our existence,ÔÇØ said Curt Kennedy, director of the Utah Snowmobile Association. ÔÇ£It also establishes an elite playground for a small handful of people who are intolerant to sharing public lands.ÔÇØ

Kennedy says the petition uses outdated data that does not acknowledge the sportÔÇÖs effort to educate riders and develop technology for lowering noise and emissions.

However, the sportÔÇÖs new technology is one catalyst for the petition. The WWA contends the new, lighter, more powerful snowmachines open up terrain that was previously inaccessible to the machines.

The WWA adds its petition is no more restrictive than an executive order signed by President Richard Nixon to ÔÇ£establish policies and provide for procedures that will ensure that the use of off-road vehicles on public lands will be controlled and directed so as to protect the resources of those lands, to promote the safety of all users and to minimize conflicts among the various uses of those lands.ÔÇØ

Snowmobile enthusiasts say the petition is a direct threat to the sport.

ÔÇ£In reality, if you sort through the minutia of the petition, which has obviously been prepared by a team of lawyers who likely have never been on a snowmobile,ÔÇØ said Kennedy, ÔÇ£they are going for the whole enchilada.ÔÇØ

Other petition opponents such as Jeff Moberg, president of the Wyoming Snowmobile Association, maintain that snowmobiles should not be regulated the same as off-road vehicles because the snowmachines donÔÇÖt make contact with the ground.

Moberg said that fact caused the FS to create the 2005 travel management exemption for snowmachines in the first place.

Moberg said he doesnÔÇÖt believe the WWA petition will persuade the FS to alter its rules.

ÔÇ£WeÔÇÖre comfortable with the Forest Service,ÔÇØ he said. ÔÇ£WeÔÇÖre comfortable with the fact that they are reasonable people.ÔÇØ


From the WWA propaganda website:

Petition to Amend the 2005 Travel Management Rule by Removing the Over-Snow Vehicle Exemption

Ninety recreation and conservation organizations representing 1.3 million members have formally petitioned USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman and USDA Forest Chief Tom Tidwell requesting that the 2005 Travel Management Rule (CFR Parts 212, 251 and 261) be amended by removing the over-snow vehicle exemption and remedying the discretionary management of over-snow vehicles on National Forest System lands.

Background on Over-Snow Vehicles and the Travel Planning Rule
In 1972 President Nixon issued Executive Order 11644 (later amended by President Jimmy Carter with Executive Order 11989) in order to ÔÇ£establish policies and provide for procedures that will ensure that the use of off-road vehicles on public lands will be controlled and directed so as to protect the resources of those lands, to promote the safety of all users of those lands, and to minimize conflicts among the various uses of those lands.ÔÇØ (E.O. 11644, Sec. 1) Since that time, the US Forest Service has regulated the use of all off-road vehicles (ORV), including snowmobiles, on national forest lands on the basis of a uniform set of standards.

In December 2005 the USDA issued the Travel Management Rule which requires each National Forest System unit to designate roads, trails, and areas that are open to motor vehicle use and to identify such on a Motor Vehicle Use Map. However, the 2005 Rule exempts over-snow vehicles (OSV) and makes management of snowmobiles and other
OSVs entirely contingent upon a discretionary decision of the local responsible official to ÔÇ£restrict or prohibitÔÇØ over-snow vehicle use. With the publication of the 2005 Rule the regulations previously used to manage all ORV use (36 CFR Part 295) were repealed. Since OSVs are exempt from the new Rule and the previous ORV regulations applied to OSV use were repealed, there are currently no regulations in place requiring OSV management.

As justification for the OSV exemption, the 2005 Rule explanatory discussion offers only that, 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 and [t]herefore, the final rule exempts snowmobiles from the mandatory designation scheme

The petition points out that snowmobiles are clearly included in the definition of ÔÇ£offroad vehicleÔÇØ used in both the 2005 Travel Management Rule and Executive Orders 11644 and 11989 which the Rule is intended to implement. It also presents abundant peer-reviewed scientific evidence documenting adverse OSV impacts on air and water quality, plants, animals, soil, wildlife habitat and the ecology of entire winter ecosystems. It presents first-person accounts of on-the-ground experiences by backcountry and Nordic skiers, snowshoers and other non-motorized winter recreationists that provide extensive documentation of conflicts between traditional quiet recreation and snowmobile use.

In short, the petition demonstrates that the similarities between snowmobiles and other ORVs in terms of their impacts on natural resource values and other forest users far outweigh the differences between them and that there simply is no justification for exempting snowmobiles and other OSVs from the guidelines set forth for other classes of ORVs under the 2005 Travel Management Rule.

The petitioners assert that due to the OSV exemption and the discretionary management clause, the 2005 Rule fails to protect opportunities for quiet winter recreation, allows significant damage to fragile winter ecosystems, and is in direct conflict with the Executive Orders which the Rule is intended to implement.

Relief Requested
The petitioners commend the USDA and USFS on implementing the 2005 Travel Management Rule with respect to wheeled ORV use and assert that the Department and Agency have a legal obligation to apply management standards to over-snow vehicle (OSV) use that are consistent with standards for other classes of ORVs and that meet the criteria of the Executive Orders which the 2005 Rule is intended to implement.

The petition requests that USDA and USFS remove the over-snow vehicle exemption from the 2005 Travel Management Rule and remove the language stating that the Rule will not apply to OSV use unless ÔÇ£the responsible official proposes restrictions or prohibitions on use by over-snow vehicles…ÔÇØ

In addition, the petition requests that the Forest Service issue clear directives and guidelines as to how National Forest System units should implement Winter Travel Management Planning. The petitioners suggest a number of issues to be addressed in the Winter Travel Management Planning guidelines including setting clear priorities and criteria for which national forests would be required to implement winter travel plans; establishing minimum snow-depth requirements for OSV use; preserving quiet as a landscape characteristic; and facilitating a public process to bring all forest stakeholders together to develop winter recreation management decisions.

In response to concerns from snowmobilers that applying the Travel Management framework to OSV use would eliminate off-trail snowmobiling, the petition points out the 2005 Rule includes a tool for allowing off-trail or cross-country snowmobile use in appropriate areas by directing each NFS unit to designate ÔÇ£roads, trails and areasÔÇØ for motor vehicle use. The Rule defines ÔÇ£areaÔÇØ as a ÔÇ£discrete, specifically delineated space that is smaller, and in most cases much smaller, than a Ranger District.ÔÇØ In designating areas for OSV use, the petitioners suggest that Winter Motor Vehicle Use Maps should be clearly defined using existing and easily enforceable physical boundaries such as ridges, creeks, fences, roads, etc. in order to facilitate adherence and enforcement.

Over-Snow Vehicle Petition Supporting Organizations

10th Mountain Division Hut Association – Access Fund – Alaska Center for the
Environment – Alaska Quiet Rights Coalition – Alaska Wildlife Alliance – Alliance for the Wild
Rockies – American Canoe Association – American Hiking Society – American
Whitewater – Bark – Bear River Watershed Council – Beartooth Recreational Trails
Association – Bend Backcountry Alliance – Big Wild Advocates – Biodiversity
Conservation Alliance – Boulder-White Clouds Council – Californians for Western
Wilderness – Center for Native Ecosystems – Colorado Environmental Coalition –
Colorado Mountain Club – Colorado Wild – Conservation Leaders Network –
Conservation Northwest – Continental Divide Trail Alliance – Defenders of Wildlife – El
Sendero, Backcountry Ski and Snowshoe Club – Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs –
Friends of Berthoud Pass – Friends of Hope Valley – Friends of Scotchman Peaks
Wilderness – Friends of the Bitterroot – Friends of the River – Friends of the Routt
Backcountry – Grand Canyon Trust – Great Old Broads for Wilderness – Greater
Yellowstone Coalition – Hells Canyon Preservation Council – High Country Citizens’
Alliance – Idaho Conservation League – Idaho Rivers United – International Mountain
Bicycling Association – Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance – Mazamas – Montana
Backcountry Alliance – Montana River Action – Montana Wilderness Association ÔÇô
Montanans for Quiet Recreation – Mount Shasta Nordic Ski Organization –
Mountaineering Club of Alaska – Nordic United – Outdoor Alliance – Oregon Natural
Desert Association – Oregon Wild – Outdoor Industry Conservation Alliance – Peaceful
Roads & Trails Vermont – Pintler Audubon Society – Quiet Use Coalition – Red
Mountain Pass Chapter of BSI/CMC – Rocky Mountain Recreation Initiative – San Juan
Citizens Alliance – San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council – Save Our Canyons – Selkirk
Conservation Alliance – Sequoia Forest Keeper – Sheep Mountain Alliance – Sierra Club ÔÇô
Snowlands Network – Southeast Idaho Recreation Alliance – Southern Utah Wilderness
Alliance – Spokane Mountaineers, Inc. – Summit Winterlands and Trails – Sustainable
Obtainable Solutions – Tahoe Backcountry Ski Patrol – The Lands Council – The
Mountaineers – Togwotee Pass Backcountry Alliance – Trails Club of Oregon – Wasatch
Mountain Club – Washtenaw Ski Touring Club – Wenatchee Mountain Coalition – Wild
Connections – Wild Earth Guardians – Wilderness Watch – Wilderness Workshop –
Willapa Hills Audubon Society – Wyoming Conservation Voters – Wyoming Wilderness
Association ÔÇô Winter Wildlands Alliance





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