Libby Montana News Archive

LibbyMt.com > News > January 2008 > Snowmobile Use on the Kootenai National Forest

Responsible Snowmobile Use on the Kootenai National Forest
by Willie Sykes, Kootenai National Forest
January 4, 2008

Libby, Mont. – The recent storms across Western Montana covered the Kootenai National Forest in a blanket of snow. Autumn colors gave way to a sea of white. Recreationists across the area have started to dig through basements and garages for skies, snowboards, and snowmobiles. It is time to start thinking about hitting the slopes of Turner Mountain, cross-country skiing along favorite trails, or traveling the miles of snow-covered groomed and non-groomed open roads.

Snowmobilers have long understood there are some areas that are not compatible with their machines; for example, wildlife winter range. The deep snow on the mountains has forced the animals to the lower slopes in search of food. The animals need the winter range free of stress often associated with human activity. Prudent snowmobilers avoid these areas to give the animals an opportunity to survive the winter months.

Lands set aside to be managed in their natural setting are another example of an area that is not compatible with snow machines. Wilderness areas were designated to allow nature to play a more natural role, where primitive recreation would be emphasized in a world that is rapidly being modernized. Motorized and mechanical vehicles were removed from these areas to other locations where the use is acceptable.

While most snowmobilers respect areas where snow machines are not compatible, there remain a few users who do not. They harass wildlife on the winter range and intentionally cross wilderness boundaries. Violations are on the increase across Montana and Northern Idaho. This has prompted the U.S. Forest Service and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, along with user groups, such as the Montana Snowmobile Association and the Montana Wilderness Association, to meet to determine actions needed to protect these areas from intentional or unintentional intrusions.

“We want the folks to enjoy the national forest but to do so safely and with consideration of the other resources that depend on the forest as well,” stated Kootenai Forest Supervisor Paul Bradford. “It is important for users to respect areas closed to protect critical resources and to prevent additional restrictions in the future.”

The Forest will be conducting more enforcement patrols this winter to ensure snowmobiles are ridden in the appropriate designated places.

District Access Maps clearly show where snowmobiles are allowed and not allowed. These maps are available at the Forest or any District Office for $2. The Forest will also work with local snowmobile clubs to educate users on safe and prudent activities.

If you have any questions, please contact your local Ranger District personnel.

Related Link:
Kootenai National Forest

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