National Forests to Re-think Rubberstamping of Outdated Winter Travel Maps
21st of Dec 2017
Advocates for the West is pleased to announce that three western forests are re-thinking their continued reliance on outdated winter travel decisions.
In response to our lawsuit, three Intermountain national forests withdrew winter motorized travel maps showing where snowmobiles and other “over-snow” motorized vehicles are allowed, while they consider impacts to imperiled wildlife.
The Boise and Payette National Forests in Idaho and a portion of the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming had claimed that maps published in 2016 and 2017 – which were based on data more than 15 years old – met legal requirements to protect natural resources, imperiled wildlife, and a growing constituency of quiet winter recreationists.
To ensure wild places, wildlife, and quiet uses are protected on the forests, we represented Winter Wildlands Alliance, WildEarth Guardians, and The Wilderness Society in challenging the decisions to publish these outdated and insufficient maps. Our lawsuit alleges that these maps do not comply with requirements under the 2015 Travel Rule and other environmental laws, outlining snowmobile impacts to quiet winter recreationists and species such as Canada lynx and wolverine.
Due to increasing use and associated disruption to winter landscapes and wildlife, in 2015 the Forest Service issued a rule requiring national forests to manage over-snow vehicles under a new paradigm, using similar guidelines to those governing wheeled vehicle use in summer seasons. The three forests targeted in the lawsuit had disregarded the new planning process and published winter travel maps without the required planning or public process.
“These forests were the only three in the country to default to outdated decisions as the basis for current winter travel maps,” said Hilary Eisen, Policy Director at Winter Wildlands Alliance. “We sought to not only protect opportunities for human-powered recreation, unique wild places, and threatened wildlife on these forests, but also to establish a level playing field. These forests, like all others across the system, must comply with current, science-based regulations requiring thoughtful and meaningful winter travel planning.”
“The Forest Service’s decision to withdraw the maps is an important first step in resolving the lawsuit,” said Senior Attorney Laurie Rule. “However, full resolution of the legal claims in this case will not occur without a commitment by the agency to conduct a transparent and up-to-date winter travel planning process for each forest.”
This new development in our case is already receiving press: