Durango Telegraph - The snowmobile loophole â?? USFS upholds winter motorized regs
The snowmobile loophole â?? USFS upholds winter motorized regs

Snowmobiles have managed to ride by new regulations. An attempt to close the “snowmobile loophole” recently fell flat when the Forest Service denied a request from dozens of recreation groups that snowmobiles be restricted to designated routes.

Last fall, a coalition of 90 recreation and conservation organizations petitioned the Forest Service to better regulate winter motorized travel. The groups argued that a regulatory loophole exempts snowmobiles from Forest Service management and allows them to travel nearly anywhere.

“This is a matter of fairness and consistency,” said

Mark Menlove, executive director of

the Winter Wildlands Alliance. “We acknowledge that snowmobiles are a popular winter use and that they have their place on national forest lands. But the current ‘anything goes’ approach to winter management allows one user group to dominate the winter landscape at the expense of all others, and it puts fragile winter ecosystems at risk.”

The motorized community fought the petition from the get-go. Nate Blaylock, of Klim USA, a manufacturer of technical wear for off-road enthusiasts, noted that snowmobiles have already lost access in recent years.

“Snow machine enthusiasts do not destroy, they enjoy,” Blaylock said. “The tempo of land use closures has dramatically increased in the last year. We are concerned, but not dismayed. We are determined to do our part.”

In the end, the Forest Service opted for the status quo. Two weeks ago, the agency determined that an “adequate mechanism for regulating over-snow vehicle use” is already in place. Menlove expressed disappointment at the decision. “Quiet recreation and responsible stewardship are getting the short end of the stick,” he told the website, New West.

– Will Sands

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