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 www.fs.usda.gov/shoshone/. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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 Trailswork@aol.com 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.