Snowmobile Club Leads Lawsuit Against Northern Region Forest Plans

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Missoula, Mont. - Various organizations, led by the Ten Lakes Snowmobile Club, have filed a lawsuit challenging U.S. Forest Service planning efforts on the Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle National Forests. The complaint, filed on Nov. 12, 2015, in federal court for the U.S. District of Montana, claims that the 2015 Revised Forest Plans violated various federal laws, including the National Forest Management Act, the Wilderness Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

“These plans were plagued by a long history, changing regulations, and shifting regional policy,” said Jim Voyles, President of the Ten Lakes club. “We strive to be good partners with the Forest Service, but these plans reflect concerns that we cannot overlook. We need active management that focuses on what is good in our National Forest System, rather than the ever-more-bewildering gridlock foreshadowed by these plans.”

The suit particularly emphasizes designation and management of “recommended Wilderness” by the Forest Service. Under these plans, such areas will essentially be managed as Congressionally-designated Wilderness, where no motorized or mechanized transport will be allowed. The lawsuit contends that the agency’s Northern Region has created an unwavering policy, which contradicts prior and continuing practice in other Forests, which has allowed existing “nonconforming” travel in recommended Wilderness to continue where it does not adversely impact wilderness character. 

The other plaintiffs in the case are Montanans for Multiple Use, North Lincoln County Chapter, Citizens for Balanced Use, Glen Lake Irrigation District, Backcountry Sled Patriots, Idaho State Snowmobile Association, and the BlueRibbon Coalition. The case is assigned to Chief District Judge Dana L. Christensen.

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