Feds asked to change approach to snowmobiles on national lands


Advocates for non-motorized winter sports have asked the federal government to close the “snowmobile loophole” that treats snowmobiles differently from dry season off-road vehicles.

The Winter Wildlands Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to human-powered snow sports, has filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service about the issue, according to New West’s Snowblog.

“This is really about saying, ‘Listen, snowmobiles are off-road vehicles.’ Let’s get rid of this clause that deals with them differently and just manage them like all other off-road vehicles,” Mark Menlove, executive director of the Winter Wildlands Alliance, told New West. “We’re going to be proactive and design areas where snowmobile use is appropriate, but there will be areas of the winter forest that are closed to motorized use just as they are in the summer.”

Ninety other recreation and conservation groups have signed onto the petition, which seeks to amend the Forest Service’s 2005 Travel Management Rule, which addresses motorcycles and ATVs, but doesn’t mention snowmobiles. But powersports advocates are opposing the proposal.

“The Winter Wildlands group and all the other people that are involved with this petition are just anti-snowmobile,” says Robbie Holman, president of the Montana Snowmobile Association. “The only reason they’re doing this is so that, if it prevails, they can start in on limiting numbers, perhaps like they did in Yellowstone. Eventually the goal is to have no motorized recreation on national lands.”

Gregg Mumm, executive director of the BlueRibbon Coalition, says more regulation is unnecessary.

“Snowmobiles have been successfully managed for years in cooperation with state clubs and associations,“ he says. “If there was ever a pattern of sound management practices that work it would be the management of snowmobiles. This is yet another salvo in the effort to move motor recreation from public lands; same agenda different venue.”

Posted by Holly Wagner