Eugene, Ore. - Snowmobile and winter recreation enthusiasts applauded this week’s decision in federal court that rejects a preservationist lawsuit and foreshadows completion of the Kapka Butte Sno-Park by the Deschutes National Forest.
The case involved the Forest's 2012 final decision to construct an eighth sno-park along the Cascade Lakes Highway near Bend and Mount Bachelor in central Oregon. The project does not authorize any new use, but rather involves a six-acre parking lot and staging area designed to provide a broad array of winter recreationists with better and safer access to an existing network of motorized and nonmotorized trails.
The plaintiffs, including Wild Wilderness, the Bend Backcountry Alliance and the Winter Wildlands Alliance, claimed the Forest Service violated numerous federal laws and failed to consider "user conflict" between a subset of nonmotorized recreationists and other trail system users. The 49-page decision was issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Coffin, following argument on March 14 in Eugene. The court found that "[t]radeoffs between motorized and nonmotorized users have already occurred and will continue in the future. The record demonstrates that the Forest Service is continuing a long, inclusive process to manage winter recreation use on the Cascade Lakes Highway."
"We are so happy to see this well-reasoned and appropriate outcome to an excruciatingly long and sometimes frustrating process," Vera Riser, president of the Oregon State Snowmobile Association (OSSA), said. "There will always be opponents to nearly any project, and we are gratified that both the Deschutes National Forest and the court were unwilling to allow a small minority to overshadow a carefully reasoned decision that served an important need for the broader recreation community."
OSSA formally intervened as a party in the case and supported the position of the Forest Service. Joining OSSA was the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, Ken Roadman and Elk Lake Resort. The intervenors were represented by Paul Turcke of Boise, ID.
A copy of the court's decision can be viewed at: http://www.snowmobilers.org/docs/KAPKA-decision-March-2014.pdf.