By Sonya Angelica Diehn
MISSOULA, Mont. - As winter comes, wildlife advocates are mounting what has become a yearly crusade against motorized recreational vehicles in National Forests. The 3 million-acre Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is Montana's largest. Wildlands CPR and Friends of the Bitterroot describe it as a Mecca for cross-country skiing in their federal challenge to a travel management rule that will open 60 percent of the forest to snowmobiles.
The forest is home to grizzly bears, wolves and "the elusive wolverine." The U.S. Forest Service plan will open up as much as 30 percent of habitat in "wolverine basin" to snowmobiles, which disturb and displace species through noise and air pollution.
Technological advances allow snowmobiles to penetrate backcountry more than ever, the environmentalists say, making impacts from the January 2009 plan approval even graver.
The plan failed to analyze cumulative impacts and to minimize the effects of off-road recreation, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and executive orders, the groups claim.
Represented by Jack Tuholske, the preservation organizations want the travel rule invalidated.