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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

In brief: Snowmobilers lose suit over wilderness recommendations

From staff and wire reports

WILDERNESS – A federal judge last week upheld protections for some of the last roadless areas of the Kootenai National Forest in northwest Montana and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

A challenge by snowmobilers that sought to overturn the U.S. Forest Service’s wilderness recommendations for areas including the Scotchman Peaks and Roderick Mountain in Montana and the Mallard Larkins and Selkirk Range in North Idaho was rejected by U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen in Missoula.

“The judge ruled that the Forest Service has broad authority to manage recommended wilderness areas to preserve their wilderness values, including through limiting motorized and mechanized use in these wild and remote areas,” according to a release from Earthjustice.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Ten Lakes Snowmobile Club and other off-road vehicle groups in November 2015 that asked the court to open the protected areas to motorized use.

“The recommended wilderness areas at issue represent some of the last wild areas in the otherwise heavily roaded Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle forests,” Earthjustice said in the release. “These areas provide important habitat for mountain goats, grizzly bears, Canada lynx, wolverines and a wide variety of other species, including the only remaining population of woodland caribou in the continental United States. And they provide an opportunity for hiking, horse packing, snowshoeing, and backcountry skiing in a wild setting.”

Motorized users were among several national forest user groups that had filed objections to the wilderness recommendations in the Forest Management Plans hammered out by the two forests. Environmentalists also panned the forest plans in 2013.

The conservation coalition defending the recommended wilderness decisions includes The Wilderness Society, Headwaters Montana, Idaho Conservation League, Montana Wilderness Association, Panhandle Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club, and Winter Wildlands Alliance.

“This decision validates longstanding efforts of our members and volunteers to ensure non-motorized, wilderness protection for the most wild and deserving areas of the Kootenai National Forest. This includes lands adjacent to the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, areas in the Yaak, and Scotchman Peaks,” said Amy Robinson, northwest field director for the Montana Wilderness Association.

“By affirming the Forest Service’s authority to manage recommended wilderness to protect wilderness values, this decision ensures that these areas will maintain the potential for future wilderness designation.”

Chronic wasting disease gets Montana’s attention

HUNTING – Montana is bolstering its efforts this hunting season to watch for a fatal wildlife disease that has been making its way to the state.

As big-game hunting season opened last weekend, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks was setting up check stations around the state to collect lymph node samples from hunter-harvested deer and elk to check for chronic wasting disease.

The disease is a fatal neurological condition that affects elk, deer and moose. The agency also is collecting samples from road-killed animals.

The disease is caused by infectious proteins which result in organ damage and eventual death.

The department plans to rotate surveillance efforts among several priority areas of the state: south central, southeast and north central and northeast.

Vandals outdoor gear swap scheduled Nov. 9 in Moscow

GEAR – The University of Idaho Outdoor Program and UI Vandal Ski Team are holding the 43rd Annual Outdoor Equipment Sale and Ski Swap on Nov. 9 from 6-8 p.m. in the Student Recreation Center’s MAC court.

Admission is free. Anyone is welcome to sell equipment for $5 per table. Proceeds benefit the Vandal Ski Team.

The sale also will include equipment from local retailers.

New and used equipment found at this sale and swap usually includes skis, snowboards, rafts, kayaks, wet suits, tents, PFDs, sleeping bags, snow shoes, canoes, dry bags, climbing equipment, bikes and other outdoor related items.

Info: UI Outdoor Program Office, (208) 885-6810.

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