Snowshoers like this one in Crater Lake National Park could be disturbed if snowmobile management is left uncertain by the U.S. Forest Service.
Credit: Michael McCullough, flickr.
As it is currently written, the Forest Service’s proposed over-snow vehicle (OSV) rule allows individual forests to decide that some backcountry areas are “open unless posted closed,” meaning that snowmobiles are given free rein there unless users are specifically told otherwise. This leaves a lot of uncertainty in how snowmobiles are managed from forest to forest, and opens up many wildlands to degradation--as well as disruptions to skiing, snowshoeing and other quiet, non-motorized recreation.
With snowmobiles becoming more popular and more powerful, the Forest Service needs to maintain clear, consistent rules for their use, in line with those governing summertime off-road vehicles like dirt-bikes and ATVs. Those vehicles are not allowed to travel wherever they want. Rather, these vehicles have to stick to areas that are specifically marked “open,” making it easier to conserve wildlife habitat and keep land accessible for other forms of outdoor recreation.
Credit: T-Bone Sandwich, flickr.
The proposed rule now on the table will result in conflicts with non-motorized users, impact habitat for lynx, elk, wolverine and other wildlife and degrade wilderness character of backcountry areas. Off-road vehicles--including snowmobiles--should have access to our national forests, but they must be managed carefully to avoid such effects. It is vital that the Forest Service develop a clear and consistent rule to this end.