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If you're looking for a break from summer's heat you should spend some time thinking about winter by reviewing and commenting on the Forest Service's new rule for managing snowmobiles and other over-snow vehicles. The rule is available for review at: www[dot]regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FS-2014-0004-0001
In June, the Forest Service released a draft of this rule for public comment and we have 3 more days - until Monday August 4 - to take a look and let them know what we think about it. While the new regulations (aka the over-snow vehicle, or OSV, Rule) are specifically designed to set a framework for how National Forests manage motor vehicles in winter, this is a big deal for people who ski and snowshoe too. By designating specific trails and areas where over-snow vehicle (OSV) use may occur, winter travel planning is an opportunity to bring balance to the backcountry, address different recreational preferences, and minimize resource damage on National Forest lands. The Forest Service doesn't need to reinvent the wheel though - they've already done this exact same thing for wheeled motorized vehicles (like ATVs) and some forests in Colorado, Montana, and Idaho used the wheeled/summer travel management rule to develop winter travel plans too.
A strong rule will force the Forest Service to step back and re-assess where motorized use is truly appropriate and create a space where skiers and snowshoers can speak up to keep or make their favorite backcountry areas non-motorized. However, with the way the rule is currently written most National Forests won't really have to change anything about how they manage snowmobiles, keeping the status quo in place. In many places the status quo is not acceptable as snowmobiles become more powerful and able to travel deeper into the backcountry, displacing skiers, snowshoers, and wildlife.
It's really important for people who care about human-powered winter recreation to comment on the new rule before Monday's deadline. Winter Wildlands Alliance has been really involved in rallying the troops for this effort and they have posted all sorts of helpful information on their website: winterwildlands[dot]org/take-action