Final OSV Rule: Not Much Different From The Draft Rule

News By Sandra Mitchell, Idaho State Snowmobile Association Director of Public Lands
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I have read the USFS “Use By Over-Snow Vehicles (Travel Management Rule)” once and I cannot find anything that I believe causes us any damage.

The Forest Service appreciates and recognizes the differences between OSV (snowmobiles) and OHV use. As we have repeatedly said, “No use is better than another, just different.”

Unique Qualities of OSV Use

When properly operated and managed, OSVs do not make direct contact with soil, water and vegetation; whereas most other types of motor vehicles operate directly on the ground. Unlike other types of motor vehicles traveling cross country, OSVs generally do not create a permanent trail or have a direct impact on soil and ground vegetation. In some areas of the country, OSV use is therefore not always confined to roads and trails.

The public’s OSV preferences and practices on NFS lands vary nationwide due to different terrain, snow typology and amount, recreational activities and transportation needs. OSV use on NFS lands in the Northeast and Midwest is largely trail-based, while the larger, wide-open, powder-filled bowls in western mountains can support cross country OSV use.

Every forest will not be required to do winter travel planning—existing decisions will be sufficient (huge)

Consistent with § 212.50(b) of subpart B of the 2005 TMR, existing decisions that allow, restrict or prohibit OSV use on NFS roads, on NFS trails or in areas on NFS lands that were made under prior authorities (part 295 or subpart C) will remain in effect under the final rule and will not have to be revisited. Analogous to § 212.52(a) of subpart B

Maps are necessary

For clarity, the final rule adds a provision in subpart C regarding the requirement for an OSV use map to display designations for OSV use, separate from the requirement in subpart B for a motor vehicle use map displaying designations for other types of motor vehicle use.

If you recall, the forests were given 4 years to complete the OHV planning

However, the Department disagrees with establishing an enforceable deadline for completion of the process. Imposing an enforceable deadline for completing OSV use designations would subject the Forest Service to a legal challenge if, despite its best efforts (perhaps due to the controversy involved in the process), the Agency is unable to meet the deadline. The Department believes that appropriate public input and coordination between the Responsible Official and Federal, State, Tribal, county and municipal governments offers the best hope for long-term resolution of issues involving designations for motor vehicle use, including OSV use. An inflexible deadline can make collaborative solutions more difficult.

An ISSA comment

Comment: Some respondents stated nonconforming uses in recommended wilderness and wilderness study areas is beyond the scope of this final rule. The Department believes that the National Forests and Grasslands should provide access for both motorized and  non-motorized uses in a manner that is environmentally sustainable over the long term.

Designations for motor vehicle use, including OSV use, are best made at the local level, in coordination with Federal, State, Tribal and local governments and appropriate public involvement, as provided for in this final rule.

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