Snowmobilers Must Comment On Shoshone Forest Plan by Nov. 1

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By Kim Raap, Trails Work Consulting

(SW ED--Since this article was first published, Raap notified us that the comment deadline has been extended to Nov. 26.)

Snowmobilers have already experienced what I call a "Remember When" moment in respect to Yellowstone National Park: remember when you could visit Yellowstone on your own snowmobile, with friends and family, at your own pace instead of having to be babysat by a commercial guide? It's already been almost a decade since that previously `unthinkable' change happened and we will soon have a generation of snowmobilers who can't "remember when" Yellowstone was a truly special snowmobiling experience because they never got to do it, ever.

We are nearing what could become yet another unwelcome "remember when" moment if snowmobilers don't step up to comment in support of snowmobiling on the Shoshone National Forest. The Shoshone, not coincidentally, borders Yellowstone and was the very first national forest just as Yellowstone was the very first national park. Even though it's a primarily nonmotorized forest with more than 1.3 million acres of designated Wilderness, it hosts world-class snowmobiling opportunities in the Beartooths-Cooke City and Togwotee Pass-Brooks Lake-Continental Divide areas.

This is it--after seven years of going to meetings and reviewing drafts, the public comment process for the Shoshone Forest Plan revision ends on Nov. 1. While the final decision won't be made until next year, this is the last opportunity for public comment about how the Shoshone National Forest should be managed for the next 10 to 20 years. After Nov. 1 only formal objections and appeals can be filed if you don't like their final decision--and the kicker is that if you don't comment on the draft plan now you won't have "standing" to file an objection if your snowmobile access "goes south" in the final decision. I can't stress enough how important it is for snowmobilers to speak up now in support of continued snowmobile access. If you don't, be prepared to live with the consequences for at least a couple of decades if not forever since once access is lost it is next to impossible to get it back.

The draft Forest Plan, EIS and management area maps can be viewed on the Shoshone's website at Alternative B is the Forest Service's preliminary proposed action--meaning that's where they are leaning today and is the basis for the draft management plan. While this is what they're proposing to do, things could change based upon public comments or further analysis. While Alternative B treats snowmobiling access fairly well, beware that anti-snowmobile groups are pressuring the Forest Service--extremely, extremely, extremely hard--to close more of the Shoshone to snowmobiling by adding unfavorable restrictions to Alternative B.

The comment deadline is Nov. 1. They should be e-mailed (their preference) to: either directly in the body of the e-mail message or as a Word or PDF attachment. Comments can also be mailed to: Shoshone National Forest, Forest Plan Comments, 808 Meadow Lane Avenue, Cody, WY 82414. Please write an e-mail or send a personal letter since both carry much more weight than form letters. You can use the following list, either in your own words or cut-and-paste, to help stress the following points:

  • I am a snowmobiler and continued snowmobiling access on the Shoshone National Forest is extremely important to me.
  • I support Alternative B as long as it continues to keep all existing snowmobile trails open, as well as access open to all existing off-trail snowmobiling areas across the forest.
  • I am very opposed to closing Two Ocean Mountain to snowmobiles to make it into an exclusive use, nonmotorized area. It should remain open for multiple winter recreation uses.
  • I am very opposed to closing any areas currently open to snowmobiling in the Togwotee Pass and Brooks Lake areas. All areas currently open to snowmobiles should remain open for multiple winter uses.
  • Since more than 80 percent of the Shoshone National Forest is already designated as Wilderness or is open to only nonmotorized uses, I am opposed to establishing any more. Enough is enough and preference should be given to motorized recreation on the remaining 20 percent of the forest.
  • Snowmobiling should continue to be allowed in the High Lakes Wilderness Study Area in the Beartooths since it is expressly permitted by law.
  • Snowmobiling should be allowed to continue in all Inventoried Roadless Areas.
  • Designated snowmobile trail routes should continue to be provided through all existing wildlife winter range areas. If new winter range areas are established, designated snowmobile trails should be provided through the new areas whenever new winter range would cut off access to open snowmobiling areas beyond the newly created winter range. 

 One other thing snowmobilers need to do is look closely at Alternative B's `winter motorized use' area maps that are on their website (while these maps are small, you can enlarge them on your computer screen by selecting 200 percent or more). The Forest Service is saying that all "currently used" snowmobiling areas will remain open under Alternative B. You need to truth-check this statement by looking closely at the maps to ensure ALL your favorite riding areas are, in fact, shown as open. If something is missing, you need to make note in your comment letter of exactly where these riding areas are located and ask the Forest Service to fix its error.

WSSA will be submitting a very detailed comment letter to ensure snowmobilers have solid standing in the event a formal objection needs to be filed. If you identify any riding areas--big or small--which are not shown as "open" to snowmobiling under Alternative B, please contact me at or (605) 371-9799 as soon as possible (in advance of Nov. 1) so we can identify and include all missing areas in WSSA's comments.

If you rely solely on the `someone else will do it mentality--to write in support of snowmobiling on the Shoshone National Forest--then don't blame anyone but yourself if we end up with another Remember When: remember when we used to be able to ride Two Ocean, all of Togwotee Pass, all of the Continental Divide, all the Beartooths.

Don't let that happen, your help is needed now.

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