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Wildlife Must Be Protected From Snowmobiles

July 3, 2015
Bryan Bird (505) 699-4719
In This Release
Friday, July 3, 2015
Wildlife Must Be Protected From Snowmobiles

Court Orders Montana National Forest to consider impacts on big game wildlife and habitat, including wolverine, moose, deer, and elk
Contact: Bryan Bird (505) 699-4719

Additional Contacts:

Laurie Schmidt Montanans for Quiet Recreation (406) 682-7560
LarryCampbell Friends of the Bitterroot (406) 363-4349

Seattle, WA –Wildlife will get a reprieve from motorized vehicles including snowmobiles onNational Forests in Montana. A threejudge appeals court panel sided with conservationists in their fight to securestronger protections for grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, lynx, and a broadvariety of “big game” from motorized recreational vehicles. At issue in thiscase is the designation of over 60% of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge NationalForest for snowmobile use. WildEarth Guardians, Friends of The Bitterroot, andMontanans For Quiet Recreation brought the legal challenge.

“It’s getting harderand harder to find places to get away from the noise and pollution of themodern world, both for humans and wildlife,” said Bryan Bird, Wild PlacesProgram Director at WildEarth Guardians. “The court gives sensitive wildlife achance to be free of snowmobiles and other motorized vehicles.”

At 3.35million-acres, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is the largest nationalforest in the state of Montana. Tucked into the southwestern corner of thestate, the Forest is part of the “spine of the Continent” wild landscape. TheForest is home to over 300 terrestrial land species, including grizzly bears,wolves, wolverines, lynx, and a broad variety of “big game” species, such asmule deer, white-tailed deer, black bear, moose, elk, bighorn sheep, mountaingoat, and antelope. It is also nationally renowned as a recreation destination.

“Off road vehicles are getting more powerful and encroaching on wildlife habitatin record numbers,” said Bird. “We are fighting to protect what’s left ofAmerica’s wild places where wildlife can find refuge and our children canexperience the outdoors untrammeled.”

At issue is thedesignation of over two million acres, or 60%, of the Beaverhead-DeerlodgeNational Forest for snowmobile use. There has been a sharp increase insnowmobile use since the 1980s, and advances in technology allow snowmobiles toreach altitudes and terrain not previously accessible. Snowmobiles affect wildlifein part because they stress animals and provoke a flight response during thewinter season, when the animals are particularly vulnerable to depletion oftheir energy reserves. Because some species avoid all motorized vehicles,snowmobiles can effectively reduce the amount of available habitat. There isalso evidence that snowmobiles can disturb reproduction cycles of wildlifespecies such as the wolverine. In addition to disturbing wildlife, snowmobilescan interfere with nonmotorized winter recreation activities because of thenoise and pollution they generate.

This is the firstcircuit court victory on the Forest service’s minimization criteria, designed toactually minimize resource damage and conflicts with non-motorized recreation.In addition to the minimization criteria violation, the Ninth Circuit held thatthe agency violated the law by failing to provide in the environmental analysisadequate information on the impacts of snowmobiles on big game wildlife andhabitat, including wolverine, moose, deer, and elk.


Other Contact
Laurie Schmidt Montanans for Quiet Recreation (406) 682-7560Larry Campbell Friends of the Bitterroot (406) 363-4349
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