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Backcountry skiers commenting on Forest Service plan

The West Willow Peak basin south of Mullan, Idaho, prized by backcountry skiers has become a target for snowmobilers. (Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition)
The West Willow Peak basin south of Mullan, Idaho, prized by backcountry skiers has become a target for snowmobilers. (Stevens Peak Backcountry Coalition)

WINTERSPORTS -- The public comment period for the U.S. Forest Service’s draft Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) Travel Rule ends Aug. 4.   This rule will affect all national forests, including the Idaho Panhandle and Lolo National Forests, which are favorite winter destinations for both backcountry skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers.

"The proposed OSV Travel Rule is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough," says John Latta of the Inland Northwest Backcountry Alliance. The group has been working to sort out conflicts between snowmobilers and muscle-powered recreation in the Lookout Pass area and other special areas.

 Latta said nordic skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and winter mountaineers should be weighing in to ensure the Forest Service adopts a rule "that meets its obligation to minimize the impacts of winter motorized use, and finally bring balance to the winter backcountry."

Following is the group's recommendation for commenters:


STEP 1: Review the WWA informational webpage about the draft rule HERE to get up to speed. Basically, we need to tell the Forest Service that the winter travel management rule should be consistent with the summer travel management rule.

STEP 2: Submit your comments online HERE. You can write your comments in the online form. OR if you prefer (and you’re computer savvy), you can modify and submit the WWA’s comment letter template (a Word document) that you can find HERE.
Let the Forest Service know how management of the winter backcountry has the potential to improve your experience on National Forest lands -- or how a lack of management has degraded your experience.

You may want to make sure that you include these important points in your comments:

  • Winter travel management needs to take a “closed unless designated open” approach to OSVs, which is how the Forest Service currently manages off- road vehicles (ORVs).
  • Past administrative decisions about over-snow vehicle use that apply to only part of a forest or that do not consider the impacts of OSVs on other users or the environment, should not be “grandfathered in” and must be reexamined.
  • The draft OSV Rule defines an “area” differently than the existing ORV travel management rule. This change is unnecessary and the definition should be consistent in ALL seasons.

Please include information about your own experiences and local playground, be it the Stevens Peak backcountry area and/or any other backcountry area that you use.

STEP 3: Share your tracking number with WWA. When you submit your comments on the website, it gives you a tracking number. Please copy that number <Ctrl C>, then paste the tracking number <Ctrl V> in the appropriate field, along with your name and email address, at the bottom of the WWA page HERE and click Submit.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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