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Sports >  Outdoors

Public invited to comment on North Idaho snowmobile rules, meeting scheduled

Racers start the 2018 Priest Lake Vintage Snowmobile race in Priest Lake, Idaho. A process managing snowmobile travel in the northern zone of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest is moving forward and the agency is looking for public feedback.  (Eli Francovich)
Racers start the 2018 Priest Lake Vintage Snowmobile race in Priest Lake, Idaho. A process managing snowmobile travel in the northern zone of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest is moving forward and the agency is looking for public feedback. (Eli Francovich)

A process managing snowmobile travel in the northern zone of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest is moving forward and the agency is looking for public feedback.

On Aug. 30, the Forest Service will hold a virtual public meeting (see sidebar) to go over a number of potential options. Public comment is then open for 30 days.

The “Kaniksu Over-snow Vehicle Travel Plan” is intended to create a system of designated routes and riding areas for motor vehicles that are designed for use over snow and that run on tracks or skis, according to an agency news release. The project area includes the Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry and Priest Lake ranger districts. Once completed, the agency will publish a motor vehicle use map that will be free to the public and describe the legal riding systems.

As part of that process, a group of interested users met this spring to develop recommendations for the Forest Service. Those recommendations are complete and will be discussed at the Aug. 30 meeting.

The group included representatives from the conservation, tribal and motorized and nonmotorized recreation communities.

Of particular concern to some groups is potential damage to caribou habitat. Since 2007, snowmobiling has been banned in certain designated recovery areas in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.

That ban was instituted in hopes of conserving the Southern Selkirk caribou herd, which at the time was estimated to be between 35 and 45 animals, according to court documents. The final herd that still regularly crossed into the U.S. was relocated in 2019. Caribou remain on the Endangered Species List in the U.S.

At the same time, avid snow machine users have chaffed under the restrictions, noting that caribou no longer live in the Lower 48.

For more information, visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests website for Kaniksu Over-snow Vehicle Travel Planning: go.usa.gov/xtdFg.

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