The Kootenai National Forests is accepting public comment on the Kootenai Over Snow Vehicle (OSV) plan. The comment deadline has been extended to September 29, 2023. The USFS is starting this planning process to comply with federal regulations requiring a travel management plan across all forests including for over snow vehicles. The Forest Service is also undergoing OSV planning in the Kaniksu National Forest. We advocate for maximum snowmobile use within the forest and support the work of groups such as Backcountry Sled Patriots.

The forest will make travel designations across the entire forest except for Wilderness, wilderness study areas, backcountry and special designations, research areas, and wolf and grizzly bear denning areas. Areas currently closed to motorized users for cross country skiing would keep the same designations. The Kootenai is approximately 2.2 million acres however the planning area is only in approximately 1.2 million acres which means nearly one million acres is locked up in restrictive management that does not allow for open OSV travel. The USFS through this planning process should consider these management designations such as wilderness study areas and look to release them.

This is the first stage of the U.S. Forest Service OSV planning project for the Kootenai National Forest in Montana. Because it’s so early on in the planning process the USFS has not developed detailed alternatives for the plan yet but the following are some of the proposals they are looking to implement:

1,257,633 acres open to cross country OSV of that 1.2 million acres, 278,000 acres will be open from Dec.1-March 31 and 979,000 acres will be open from Dec. 1-May 31. The areas for grizzly bear denning will close march 31st. USFS will also designate 642 miles of OSV trails, 274 of groomed and 368 of ungroomed trails.

The Dry Creek Area is proposed for closure simply because of it’s proximity to Wilderness. The USFS cannot create “buffer zones” to Wilderness or other wilderness types of management such as wild and scenic rivers and wilderness study areas. Much of the closures are also due to potential denning habitat. Yellowstone National Park finished a study showing the effects of motorized users on big game wildlife and showed there was not significant impact so much so that they ended the study early. This study should be used in making decision on the Kootenai.

If you are familiar with this area we would love to gather your feedback for on the ground information. BRC advocates for year round recreation including OSV use and believes that snowmobile users know their machines best and when it is appropriate to use those machines based off the amount of snow coverage. Arbitrary dates don’t always align with weather conditions from year to year.

You can see the proposals in the map below, dark green signifies OSV use December-May and light green signifies December-March.

Send a comment to the Forest Service to stand up for OSV use in Idaho.