SAWS ACTION ALERT:
Forest Travel Management DEIS – McCall, ID
Comment Deadline: May 19, 2006
Payette National Forest
McCall, ID 83638
information available here: http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/payette/publications/trvl_mgmt/deis_trvl/trvl_deis.shtml
Payette National Forest (PNF) released the forest Travel Management Draft
Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) about a month ago. Since that time, the Idaho State Snowmobile
Association (ISSA), Blue Ribbon Coalition (BRC) and Snowmobile Alliance of
Western States (SAWS) all requested that the comment deadline be extended from
45 to 120 days so that we can all better evaluate the DEIS and prepare
substantive comments. We got 90
days. The new travel plan will affect
snowmobiling and other activities for the next 10 to 15 years. This means we need to overwhelm them NOW!
Summary on the Alternatives
A: No Action
B: Proposed Action; closes 17,408 acres to snowmobiling
C: Adds 37,799 acres for snowmobiling; not the
original ISSA Proposal
D: Granola / Crunchy Proposal; closes 199,349 acres to snowmobiling
to say Alternative C is our best bet but SAWS does not support this alternative
as it is currently written. SAWS requests that you support a
revised Alternative C that includes restoring snowmobile use to those portions
of the Needles and Secech roadless areas included in the Dec 2004 ISSA
proposal. There is no law or policy that requires the Forest Service to
continue to prohibit snowmobile use.
The Payette National
Forest is currently under the
direction of a temporary forest supervisor.
Region 4 hopes to have this position permanently filled by this spring
or early summer. It will be our job to
give the supervisor as much input and relevant information with which to work,
as this person will be making the final decision.
some points for you to use when sending comments to the Forest Service. There are a number of important details that
need to be addressed before considering the merits of Alternative C. Please outline some personal information such
as who you are, where you live, your interest in the
area and anything else that testifies to your credibility. Please put your comments in your own words.
- Alternative C is not the
ISSA’s proposal and is not a motorized alternative. The Forest Service omitted proposed
openings by the ISSA within recommended wilderness areas (RWA), resulting
in just a 3.5% increase in access.
The original ISSA proposal asked the forest service to open
approximately 146,600 acres that were previously closed to snowmobiling
for no valid reason, not the miniscule amount of 37,800 acres contained in
the so-called motorized alternative.
The Forest Service has communicated that they would not consider
opening any area that is currently classified as “recommended wilderness”
and closed to winter motorized recreation.
There is no law in the Forest Service Manual that requires the
Forest Service to close any RWA’s. In fact, FSM 1923.03 states RWA’s are
“not available for any use or activity that may reduce the area’s
wilderness potential”. So they took away the possibility of opening
approximately 112,000 acres to snowmobiling in this DEIS. This is wrong and the law is on our side
in this case.
DEIS fails to consider the potential outcomes of the Roadless Review
process. The omitted areas from
Alternative C are known as the Needles and Secech roadless areas. Both are classified as RWA’s. On February 21,
the Valley County commissioners voted
unanimously to remove all of the RWA’s from that
status in their county and have submitted these
recommendations to the governor for review. This was done under the State of Idaho’s
Roadless Review process.
- The Needles and Secech
roadless areas were set aside as recommended wilderness in the 1988 forest
“Land and Resource Management Plan”.
There is evidence in this document that snowmobiling was allowed in
the area up until this point, because “trail biking (both
motorized and non-motorized)” is identified as an established use. Forest Service policy
allows use in areas of recommended wilderness that do not compromise
future designation by Congress.
Snowmobiling is one of those uses, as it has been given a unique
and separate classification from other OHV by the Forest Service to be
used in their travel planning process.
range of alternatives is inadequate.
Snowmobile access changes proposed in Alternatives B and C are
minor compared to the area currently open (Alternative A). However, the change in Alternative D,
the non-motorized proposal, has a whopping reduction of 18.5%. The lack of any real range of alternatives
is a major flaw in this analysis.
No alternative adequately addresses the increasing demand for
snowmobiling, the need to disperse use to keep a quality experience, and
the economic importance of snowmobiling.
In 2003 nearly 40,000 people were snowmobiling in the PNF. That figure dropped in 2004 and 2005
because of poor snow conditions, but rebounded this winter because of the
normal snowpack. Based on the large
number of vehicles that overflowed parking lots onto the roadsides, it
appears that the PNF may have set a new record. No alternative in the DEIS responds to
that level of demand. This needs to
be corrected and a real range of alternatives presented, including ISSA’s
proposal and changes in the Forest Plan necessary for its consideration.
D is completely unacceptable.
Alternative D proposes to slash motorized access by 18.5%. The impacts of non-motorized users is largely
ignored in the DEIS and they are treated as neutral with respect to pollution,
lynx and other wildlife. Yet they too
compact snow, affect connectivity, and defecate in the woods. Many studies in fact have shown that wildlife
is far more stressed by non-motorized users than motorized users. Their movements more closely resemble those
of predators and thus are more likely to produce a violent flight response to
non-motorized human presence than snowmobile use which announces their presence
numbers of winter non-motorized users is relatively small in comparison to
snowmobilers. According to the National Visitor Use Monitoring Study for the
PNF in August 2003, snowmobile use was nearly twice that of cross-county skiing
and snow shoeing combined. Even so, a number of areas are
already set aside for exclusive use by skiers and snowshoers including: North/North, Squaw Point, Jughandle, Little
Ski Hill, and Ponderosa State Park.
The snowmobile community has agreed to two additional closures at Bear Basin and Lick Creek, although we
differ with Alternatives B and D on their size and conformity. Non-motorized users can access every other
acre of land in the PNF, including 792,000 acres of congressionally designated
Alternative D ignores the economic impact of its
major reduction of snowmobiling on local counties and communities. It also fails to respond to the increasing
demand for snowmobiling opportunities and the need to disperse use.
A & B are unacceptable. While Alternative A, the existing situation
is preferable to the other alternatives, it doesn’t respond to changing
conditions and needs. With respect to
both Alternatives A and B we know that recommended wilderness doesn’t mandate
that motorized and mechanized use be excluded.
We know that much of the identified lynx habitat was delineated in error
and that new science opens the doors to more realistic use of actual lynx
habitat. We now have new information on
economic impacts of motorized winter recreation that places it in a new light
with respect to its importance to local communities and their economies. These alternatives simply fail to respond to
changing times and new information, and are, therefore, not acceptable.
mileage of Groomed Trails must not be reduced.
Alternatives A, B, C, and D call for 245.3, 225.9, 237.1 and 225.9 miles
of groomed trail respectively.
Alternatives B through D all involve a loss. This is unacceptable. The current miles of groomed trails should be
retained and any loss in one location offset by increases elsewhere. We need groomed trails to disperse increasing
use. Grooming is done at no expense to
the PNF and is a useful tool to direct and manage use.
appears that the staff is making decisions without regard to Forest
policy, as evidenced in the DEIS.
In other words, the chickens are running the henhouse. They have failed to research historic
use when considering the ISSA proposal.
They have failed to follow their policy on their Lynx
amendment. They have not analyzed
the potential impacts that OHV use, both winter and summer, will have on
forest ecology. They have failed to
address previous errors that were committed due to bad science, such as
claiming part of the forest as Mountain Goat habitat when in reality none
have been seen in the area since 1970.
forward this to anyone that rides a snowmobile, regardless of where they ride.
The PNF near McCall, Idaho is a high demand winter
destination for snowmobilers across the western United States. Ask them to write the Forest
Service. The Forest Service needs to
know that snowmobilers are not willing to be ignored.
State Snowmobile Association contributed greatly to this alert.
Thank you all for your interest in and dedication to
protecting YOUR right to ride.
of Western States
Protecting the right to ride for the owners of
303,604 registered snowmobiles (2005) in the western United States.
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