“This is a watershed event in Snowlands Network’s efforts to cause the Forest Service to address the impacts of snowmobile recreation,” said Marcus Libkind, Snowlands Network’s Chairman and founder.
Snowlands Network and Winter Wildlands Alliance announced today they have settled litigation with the United States Forest Service on terms that require the U.S. Forest Service to review its snowmobile trail grooming program on five national forests: the Stanislaus, Eldorado, Tahoe, Plumas and Lassen. The Center for Biological Diversity was co-plaintiff in the litigation and is participating in the settlement.
The settlement ends a lawsuit brought by the plaintiffs in Federal District Court for the Eastern District of California that challenged the Forest Service practice of exempting snowmobile trail grooming from detailed environmental review, through the issuance of “categorical exclusions” and/or reliance on outdated environmental assessments. The Forest Service agreed to initiate environmental review of its snowmobile trail grooming activities on the five national forests, with the expectation of completing such activities by the end of 2015. The plaintiffs are provided the right to submit an alternative for Forest Service consideration as part of the process of environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act.
“Together with the recent court decision in Idaho overturning the snowmobile exemption in the travel management rule, we are finally getting general recognition that snowmobiles must be managed in the same fashion as all other off-road vehicles in all other seasons,” said Mark Menlove, Executive Director of Winter Wildlands Alliance. “This settlement today will kick start broad winter travel management in California and we look forward to continuing to support our affiliate Snowlands Network in ensuring that skiers and snowshoers have a voice in federal land management in California.”
“This starts the process of environmental review,” said Bob Rowen, Snowlands Network’s Vice President of Advocacy. “We look forward to assisting the Forest Service in fulfilling its mandate to manage public lands for multiple use in an environmentally sustainable manner and to instill greater balance in Forest Service management of winter recreation.”
Laurie Rule of Advocates for the West, a public interest environmental law firm, represented the Plaintiffs in this lawsuit. The settlement follows a March decision in an unrelated case from the Federal District Court in Boise, Idaho, that requires the Forest Service to amend its travel management rule to include a requirement to address the impacts of snowmobiles on each national forest unit where snowmobiling occurs. That lawsuit was brought by Winter Wildlands Alliance and Advocates for the West is also in that litigation.