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Will the Forest Service’s Final Winter Travel Management Rule Protect Wildlife?

January 28, 2015
Greg Dyson (503) 730-9242
In This Release

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Will the Forest Service’s Final Winter Travel Management Rule Protect Wildlife?

Final Rule Regulating Winter Motorized Recreation Released Today
Contact: Greg Dyson (503) 730-9242

Additional Contact:

Sarah Peters, Wild Places Program Attorney, speters@wildearthguardians.org;541-345-0299

Washington, DC: After years of pressure, the Forest Service today releasedits finalrule regulating winter motorized recreation. “It’s way overdue,” said SarahPeters, of WildEarth Guardians. “Rampant snowmobile use has been harming ourthreatened winter wildlife—lynx, wolverines and grizzlies—for decades, withoutconstraint. Snowmobiles have also been wreaking havoc on those of us who enjoybeing out in the quiet and solitude of a beautiful winter landscape. The noiseand fumes are ridiculous!”

One of the biggest changes to the rule is that, once therule is implemented, areas will now be closed to snowmobiles unlessspecifically designated open. In the past, the approach has been the opposite:generally, unless the Forest Service took specific measures to close an area towinter motorized recreation, it was considered open to any and all uses. Thistranslated to 80 million acres of National Forests in the west being open tosnowmobiles, and only 35 million acres being protected from snowmobile use—mostof that in Wilderness, where no mechanized uses are allowed.

The rule still has its loopholes. One is that the areasdesignated for snowmobile use can be huge, hundreds of thousands of acres. Anotheris that old Forest Service decisions on winter recreation can getgrand-fathered into the rule.

“We’ll be watching closely how the Forest Service movesforward with the rule,” said Greg Dyson, of WildEarth Guardians. “This rule isa fantastic opportunity to protect our forests and winter wildlife fromunregulated snowmobile use. But there is no guarantee that will happen.”

It has longbeen found that snow-packed trails created by snowmobiles and other sourcesserve as travel routes for potential competitors and predators of lynx,especially coyotes.[i]Coyotes are disadvantaged in deep, soft snow due to their high foot-load, whilelynx are better able to move across deep, soft snow. Snowmobiles disrupt theseparation between the two by providing coyotes a packed path into habitat theywould not usual frequent, interfering with lynx habitat.

In addition, most snowmobiles use two-stroke engines, whichdump unburned fuel into the snow. When the snow melts, those toxins flush into nearbystreams, rivers and lakes, harming fish and other aquatic species, while alsodegrading municipal drinking water supplies.


[i] Bider 1962, Ozoga andHarger 1966, Murray and Boutin 1991, Koehler and Aubry 1994, Murray et al.1995, Buskirk et al. 2000a; Bunnell, Flinders, and Wolfe 2006.

Other Contact
Sarah Peters, Wild Places Program Attorney, speters@wildearthguardians.org; 541-345-0299
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