The Forest Service’s new winter travel plan allowed for significantly increased public snowmobile use in the north half of the Fairfield Ranger District, but also closed the northernmost portion of the area to protect important habitat for mountain goats, wolverines and lynx. The entire north half of the district had previously been inaccessible for public snowmobile use due to wildlife closure for wintering elk. After numerous requests by snowmobilers to lift that restriction, the Forest Service agreed, and developed the new plan. Despite newly opening more than 138,000 acres to snowmobile use, the Idaho State Snowmobile Association challenged the Forest Service’s because of the northernmost closure for wildlife.
The District Court granted the snowmobilers’ NEPA claim, holding that the evidence did not support the Forest Service’s decision to restrict the northernmost region to protect wintering wildlife. The court reversed and remanded the Forest Service’s decision, resulting in the prior elk wildlife closure going back into effect to prevent snowmobile use in all of the northern region. The Forest Service and Guardians and are partners appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit, and the case is pending.