U.S. Forest Service Seeks Comments on Over-Snow Vehicle Proposal

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June 18, 2014 12:20 AM

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The U.S. Forest Service today published a Federal Register Notice seeking public comment on a proposal that would help standardize where and when over-snow vehicles, such as snowmobiles, are used on national forests and grasslands.  The public will have 45 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register to comment on the proposed revisions. The Forest Service intends to publish the final rule change by Sept. 9, 2014.

"Over-the-snow access and recreation is an appropriate use of public lands, and we strive to offer a variety of opportunities for that," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "We believe it is essential that the public be engaged in decisions regarding travel management on the forests and grasslands, and we encourage the public to review the proposal and provide comments to help improve the final rule."

Motor vehicle use on national forests and grasslands is governed by the Travel Management Rule which provides for a system of roads, trails and areas that are designated for motor vehicles. Over-snow vehicles-vehicles designed for use over snow and that run on a track and/or a ski or skis-are currently treated differently from other motor vehicles by giving forest and grassland supervisors the discretion to develop a similar system for over-snow vehicles. In 2013, a federal court ruled that this violates Executive Order 11644, "Use of off-road vehicles on public lands." The court ordered that the Forest Service must regulate over-snow use, but does have the discretion to determine where and when over-snow vehicle use can occur on agency lands.   This litigation occurred in the District of Idaho, and has involved snowmobile advocates including the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, American Council of Snowmobile Associations, Idaho State Snowmobile Association, and BlueRibbon Coalition.  Those organizations, without the Forest Service, continue to participate in an appeal of the district court decision.

The proposed rule can be viewed at HERE.  For a media account, visit E&E Publishing HERE (if you do not already have a subscription, get a trial subscription first). For more information about today's release from the Forest Service see http://www.fs.fed.us/publications/over-snow-vehicle-faqs.pdf

BRC and other organizations affected by this ruling and will be releasing additional information shortly that will assist in commenting on the proposed rule, so stay tuned.

Thanks in advance and, as always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact BRC.

Ric Foster
Public Lands Department Manager
BlueRibbon Coalition
208-237-1008 ext 107
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The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) is a national non-profit organization that champions responsible recreation and encourages a strong conservation ethic and individual stewardship, while providing leadership in efforts to keep outdoor recreation alive and well -- all sports; all trails.  With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BLUERIB -  www.BlueRibbonCoalition.Org
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