By Associated Press
Butte, Mont. - Three environmental groups have filed a federal lawsuit contesting a U.S. Forest Service plan allowing snowmobiles to use more than two million acres of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in western Montana.
Montanans for Quiet Recreation, Wildlands CPR and Friends of the Bitterroot filed the lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court in Missoula.
The groups contend the plan approved by the Forest Service in January 2009 didn't go through an analysis of how snowmobile use would affect elk, mountain goats, wolverines and other species.
The groups also said allowing snowmobiles on 60 percent of the 3.3-million-acre forest eliminates opportunities for cross country skiers, snowshoers, and other non-motorized users.
Adam Rissien of Wildlands CPR said the groups aren't out to ban snowmobiles from the forest.
"We can certainly agree that a portion of those two million acres would be fine for snowmobile use," Rissien told The Montana Standard. "But the Forest Service simply never went through the process of determining which of those areas would be fine for snowmobile use from a wildlife perspective."
Forest Service officials declined to comment on the lawsuit.
"We need to have the time to take a look at the suit and see what's in there," said Leona Rodreick, Beaverhead-Deerlodge spokeswoman.
Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com