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Federal officials ban snowmobiles in Idaho’s Great Burn wilderness study area

LEWISTON, Idaho – Federal officials have released a plan for a proposed wilderness area in a northern Idaho forest that includes banning snowmobiles.

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest Supervisor Cheryl Probert decided to maintain a ban on snowmobiles in the Great Burn recommended wilderness area, the Lewiston Tribune reported.

The Great Burn is located along the Idaho-Montana border and spans over 391 square miles (1,013 sq. kilometers). It has no roads.

Motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles will continue to be permitted to travel to Fish Lake on a limited basis as part of the decision reached Tuesday.

“I recognize that in affirming the decision to keep the (recommended wilderness areas) closed to motorized use, except for Fish Lake Trail in the summer, I am affecting a growing snow machine user group looking for rugged, backcountry riding,” Probert said. “My decision is rooted in the Forest Plan direction to protect wilderness character and future designation.”

Sandra Mitchell with the Idaho State Snowmobile Association disagrees with the plan. She argues that there is no reason for snowmobiles to be banned in the Great Burn since there are no resource and conflict issues or wildlife concerns.

“It’s so disappointing,” she said. “It’s just not acceptable that the citizen owners of public land should be treated that way.”

Former supervisor Rick Brazell’s 2012 Travel Management Plan was challenged in lawsuits which claimed it was too restrictive or too lenient on motorized vehicles, possibly endangering important elk habitat.

A judge later ruled that the agency had failed to study how motorized vehicles would impact elk.

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