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The fi­nal rule, which will take ef­fect in about a month, will “pro­vide a wide range of mo­tor­ized and non-mo­tor­ized recre­ational op­por­tu­ni­ties”, said U.S. For­est Ser­vice Chief Tom Tid­well. “This pol­icy main­tains com­mu­nity in­put and lo­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing so that those with knowl­edge of lo­cal ar­eas can de­cide how to best bal­ance nat­u­ral re­source is­sues with le­git­i­mate recre­ational uses of na­tional for­est land.”

The Travel Man­age­ment Rule, es­tab­lished in 2005, adopted a sys­tem in which lo­cal for­est man­agers des­ig­nated trails, routes and ar­eas in which off-high­way ve­hi­cle use was al­lowed or pro­hib­ited. Be­cause snow­mo­bile tracks melt with the snow, whether to use this spe­cific reg­u­la­tory sys­tem to man­age over-snow ve­hi­cles was at the dis­cre­tion of the land man­ager. In March 2013 an Idaho fed­eral judge ruled in fa­vor of a law­suit filed by the Win­ter Wild­lands Al­liance filed in Novem­ber, 2011, re­quir­ing the For­est Ser­vice to con­duct more anal­y­sis.

The Amer­i­can Coun­cil of Snow­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tions (ACSA) and the Idaho State Snow­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion, with sub­stan­tial sup­port from the In­ter­na­tional Snow­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (ISMA), ap­pealed the de­ci­sion against the For­est Ser­vice. This ap­peal is cur­rently on­go­ing. Blue Rib­bon Coali­tion is also listed as a par­tic­i­pant in the ap­peal.

The pro­posed rule was pub­lished on June 18, 2014 and the For­est Ser­vice re­ceived and an­a­lyzed thou­sands of com­ments that were re­ceived dur­ing the com­ment pe­riod. Along with ACSA, ISMA and the other par­tic­i­pants in the ap­peal filed de­tailed pub­lic com­ments. Based on its find­ings, the For­est Ser­vice is­sued the fi­nal rule. The fi­nal rule will now re­quire that each For­est Ser­vice unit and/or ranger dis­trict which has ad­e­quate snow­fall to sup­port OSV use, de­velop an OSV Plan that de­cides which routes, trails and ar­eas should be open to snow­mo­bil­ing, un­less the unit al­ready has such a Plan in place.

This Rule will pro­vide con­sis­tency in how over-snow ve­hi­cle use is al­lowed by re­quir­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of maps des­ig­nat­ing trails, routes and ar­eas where snow­mo­biles are al­lowed. Those forests that have al­ready made de­ci­sions on OSV use, with pub­lic in­volve­ment, will not be re­quired to go through that process again and cur­rent use may con­tinue, un­less the unit chooses to re­open its prior de­ci­sion. Thus, a sub­stan­tial num­ber of Forests will not be re­quired to go through this process again. For those Forests that must con­duct pro­ceed­ings to des­ig­nate trails, routes and ar­eas as open or closed to snow­mo­bile use, cur­rent use is pro­tected on an in­terim ba­sis while the unit con­ducts the pro­ceed­ing. The Fi­nal Rule ex­plains:

“Un­til des­ig­na­tion for a unit or Dis­trict are com­plete and an OSV use map in­den­ti­fy­ing those des­ig­na­tions is pub­lished, ex­ist­ing OSV travel man­age­ment poli­cies, re­stric­tions, and or­ders re­main in ef­fect. Use of NFS roads, NFS trails, and ar­eas on NFS lands con­sis­tent with cur­rent OSV travel man­age­ment de­ci­sions and man­age­ment ob­jec­tives may con­tinue.”

The Rule pro­vides for the cre­ation of over-snow ve­hi­cle use maps. It also mod­i­fies the def­i­ni­tion for an “area” to en­com­pass over-snow ve­hi­cle use over a broader land­scape. The For­est Ser­vice ex­plains that this rec­og­nizes that cross-coun­try snow­mo­bile use may be ap­pro­pri­ate in ar­eas in which cross-coun­try use by wheeled off-high­way ve­hi­cles would not be ap­pro­pri­ate.

“Snow­mo­bil­ers have par­tic­i­pated in For­est Ser­vice plan­ning for decades. Un­for­tu­nately it seems ev­ery time a For­est Ser­vice Plan is up­dated, snow­mo­bil­ers lose trails and ac­cess,” said ACSA Pres­i­dent Duane Sut­ton. “With this new rule, snow­mo­bil­ers must main­tain their dili­gence in at­tend­ing th­ese meet­ings and par­tic­i­pat­ing in the plan­ning process. Our par­tic­i­pa­tion is more im­por­tant now than ever.”

The Amer­i­can Coun­cil of Snow­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion is very ap­pre­cia­tive of the in­put and financial sup­port from in­di­vid­ual snow­mo­bil­ers, snow­mo­bile clubs, state as­so­ci­a­tions, and busi­nesses through­out this process. ACSA looks for­ward to work­ing with all of those in­di­vid­u­als and or­ga­ni­za­tions in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of this Rule.

To view the en­tire Fi­nal Rule, see http:/ www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-01-28/pdf/2015-01573.pdf

If you have any ques­tions, please con­tact the ACSA of­fice.

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