The Panhandle National Forest in Idaho is updating their Over Snow Vehicle (OSV) Travel Management Plan for the Sandpoint Ranger District, Bonners Ferry Ranger District and Priest Lake Ranger Districts. The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to create several areas of use including: OSV Open year long, OSV open seasonally and closed to OSV use. Currently there are 735,597 acres that are open year round to OSV users – meaning no calendar-based restrictions. The proposal would leave 144,731 acres open with no calendar-based restrictions. The rest of those acres would only be open to OSV use from either November 16-March 31 or December 1-March 31. Greatly impacting the amount of days within a year OSV users can access over 600,000 of land.
Below are the areas proposed to be closed to OSV use. Only gray will be available open OSV use.
Areas are recommended to be closed due to recommended wilderness, research natural areas, big game concerns for denning activities for grizzlies, and concerns for caribou habitat.
Two areas will be open seasonally from Dec. 1st- March 31st until motorized access standards are met and then will be open year long. These areas are the Roman Nose area in the Selkirk Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone, and the Moose Lake area in the Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly.
BlueRibbon recommends that using dates of operation is typically arbitrary and capricious. Conditions and standards change from year to year and aren’t consistent based on a date. A National Park Study in Yellowstone showed that OSV use didn’t have any significant impact on wildlife within the park. USFS should be using best available science and active management strategies rather than closure. We believe USFS should develop an alternative that allows for date-based restrictions to be modified if warranted by conditions on the ground.
Another major concern that you will see from the table above is the loss of OSV routes. Approximately 32 miles will be closed to OSV users. OSV use is a huge economic player in this part of Idaho and the USFS should be doing everything in its power to protect these economic opportunities.
Comments on this plan are due September 15, 2022 and will hopefully be used to change the proposed action to a more OSV friendly proposal. Please add your voice to ours using the tool below. If you have specific knowledge about any elements of this plan, please include them by customizing your comment.