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WSSA Needs Help To Save Riding Areas

Published online: Jul 23, 2010 News

(ED-The following comes from the Washington State Snowmobile Association. Contact information is located in a couple of different spots in the following release.)

 

Washington state is about to lose major riding areas that will pave the way to make it easier for motorized users to lose additional areas statewide in the future.

 

The Washington State Snowmobile Association is in a legal fight with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife over the designation of critical habitat for the Lynx. The designation violates several federal laws that, if enforced, would make it harder for them to place more restrictions and limit snowmobilers' access to prime riding areas. If we do not take legal action to challenge these actions and point out these violations they will be free to close more lands without regard to these federal violations in the future.

 

WSSA has spent more than $200,000 in legal fees defending your rights to this land and other lands in this battle. The association needs at least $50,000 to finish the legal battle and this is where you can help. The association is requesting donations to its legal fund as soon as possible. Large or small donations, it all counts.

 

Contributions can be made online at www.wssa.us or you can mail a check to: WSSA Treasurer, Legal Action Fund, P.O. Box 225, Newman Lake, WA 99025.

 

In November, 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued its final rule designating critical habitat for the Canada Lynx in the United States. In Washington, only a small piece of land to the north of Lake Chelan was designated as critical habitat and the area was not used by snowmobilers.

 

By FWS's own admission the designation of critical habitat is a time and resource intensive process that results in very little additional benefits to a species. However, in February, 2009, FWS "reconsidered" its position and issued a new designation which included more than 1,836 square miles in Chelan and Okanogan counties as critical habitat for the Canada Lynx. In addition to Washington, the designation included lands in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota and Maine for a total of 39,000 square miles-a geographic area roughly the size of the state of Indiana.

 

If this designation stands, it will bring more restrictions and possibly closures to popular snowmobile riding areas.

 

In June, 2009, WSSA filed suit in the District Court of Wyoming challenging the FWS's designation based on violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by improperly designating areas that lack the physical and biological features "essential to the conservation of the species;" violation of the ESA by designating as critical habitat national forest service lands that will be managed under the Lynx Conservation and Assessment Strategy (LCAS)-previously determined by the FWS to be the "best scientific and commercial data available;" and violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) because the critical habitat rule is a "major federal action" "significantly affecting the quality of the human environment;" and (2) failing to evaluate a reasonable range of alternatives, as required.

 

The current status is that WSSA filed an amicus brief on a related suit in Montana in December, 2009. After obtaining the FWS administrative record (over 1,900 pages) WSSA filed its brief in January, 2010. The government and the interveners filed their response to our brief in February, 2010. At this time, WSSA's counsel is preparing the reply to the government and intervener's response and was filed in April. A hearing date was to be scheduled in May or June for oral presentation. The court will then render a decision.

 

Although litigation is extremely expensive, WSSA has been able to sustain the efforts to date with its ongoing fundraising efforts for the Legal Action Fund and through utilization of WSSA's retained earnings. The association has nearly depleted its available funds and urgently needs additional funds to follow through on the lawsuit.