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Group challenges snowmobile use on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
Sarah McMillan, 406-549-3895, email@example.com
Missoula, MT—This week WildEarth Guardians defended quiet winter landscapes that provide important habitat for wolverine, lynx, grizzly, and big game from snowmobiles on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Guardians filed an objection to the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to allow extensive snowmobile use across the forest’s 3.35 million acres.
“Unfettered snowmobile use on our public lands disrupts the quiet forest landscapes that provide connected habitat for wolverine, grizzly bears and Canadian lynx,” said Marla Nelson, Rewilding Attorney at WildEarth Guardians. “Quiet, connected habitat on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge is essential to wildlife survival—especially in winter months when animals are highly vulnerable.”
The Forest Service’s decision is a response to WildEarth Guardians’ win last year in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Guardians challenged the agency’s prior proposal to allow snowmobiling on more than 60% of the forest. The court was clear when it returned the proposal to the agency for fixing: the Forest Service needs to revise how it manages snowmobiles on the forest to minimize impacts to natural resources, wildlife, and quiet uses.
Despite that direction, the Forest Service proposed to make no changes from its original proposal, once again allocating more than 60% of the forest to snowmobiles.
The decision would allow snowmobiles on over two million acres, including important wolverine denning habitat, grizzly bear denning habitat, lynx habitat, and high value winter habitat for big game. Winter is a time when species are surviving on limited reserves, making wildlife highly vulnerable to human disturbance.
“We are extremely troubled that the Forest Service is choosing to ignore clear direction from the court,” said Sarah McMillan, Senior Staff Attorney for WildEarth Guardians. “The ‘thrillcraft’ culture of backcountry snowmobiling poses a major threat to the quiet wildness on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge that wolverine, grizzly, and lynx depend on for survival. It’s well past time for the Forest Service to rein in the damage from snowmobiles by creating a fair, balanced winter travel plan that protects wildlife.”
Guardians’ objection outlines how the Forest Service’s decision fails to comply with the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, and suggests fixes.
WildEarth Guardians is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers and health of the American West.