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Defending Logan Canyon Winter Recreation

BLUERIBBON COALITION, INC.
MEDIA RELEASE

Contact: Brian Hawthorne, 208-237-1008 ext. 102 or 208-390-5770
Date:   February 2, 2006

WINTER RECREATION GROUPS INTERVENE TO DEFEND LOGAN CANYON WINTER RECREATION IMPLEMENTATION PLAN

  POCATELLO , ID -- The BlueRibbon Coalition, a national recreational advocacy group based in Pocatello , Idaho , along with the Utah Snowmobile Association, Top of Utah Snowmobile Association, the American Council of Snowmobile Associations and Beaver Creek Lodge, today filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit challenging snowmobile access to the Wasatch-Cache National Forest .  The interveners, represented by Boise-based attorney Paul Turcke, wish to defend Forest Service management direction that equitably divides the popular Franklin Basin and Tony Grove area among motorized and non-motorized recreationists, protects wildlife, and sensibly addresses boundary management and safety concerns.

 

The lawsuit challenges the July, 2005 Logan Ranger District winter recreation implementation direction following a “mediation-arbitration” process.  This process followed instructions from the Department of Agriculture, management direction from the Revised Forest Plan, and criteria from the Revised Forest Plan analysis, to adjust winter recreation boundaries and determine snowmobile access/egress routes through non-motorized areas.  Representatives of motorized and non-motorized recreation groups voluntarily participated in the “mediation-arbitration” process and submitted proposals to the Forest Service.

 

On December 15, 2005 , four environmental groups filed a lawsuit in Utah U.S. District Court against the Wasatch-Cache National Forest , alleging the new winter recreation implementation plan did not receive enough public input and environmental analysis.  All four of the plaintiff environmental groups agreed to, and participated in, the entire “mediation-arbitration” process as representatives for environmental and non-motorized recreation public interests.

 

Brian Hawthorne, Public Lands Director for the BlueRibbon Coalition, disagreed with the concerns about lack of analysis. “Extensive environmental analysis was conducted during the Revised Forest Plan process. I’ve got a foot-high stack of environmental documentation sitting on my desk for this process alone. My goodness, how much analysis do we need?” Hawthorne said, adding “these environmental groups are trying to convince the court to ‘dot the I’s’ differently than the Forest Service.”

 

Regarding positive aspects of the new plan, Hawthorne observed “this is an equitable compromise that protects extensive non-motorized areas that are prized by cross-country and backcountry skiing enthusiasts. The new plan also protects critical winter range for wildlife and actively addresses identified safety issues.”

 

Garth Barker, a Logan resident and avid snowmobiler added “snowmobilers are willing to accept reasonable restrictions and we think the Forest Service ‘split the pie,’ equally among snowmobilers and skiers.” Barker noted “over half of the Logan Ranger District is closed to snowmobiles, but the entire district is open to skiers. The skiers must reasonably understand that they will have to share the other half with all winter recreationists.”

 

Curt Kennedy, Public Lands Director of the Utah Snowmobile Association, was involved in the planning process from the beginning.  He described the Forest Service’s winter plan as “a bit of genius.” “Many alternatives were studied in that planning process and the outcome of the “mediation-arbitration” process appropriately blends the Preferred Alternative and the 20 March -2003 Revised Forest Plan decision. 

The Preferred Alternative was based on extensive public involvement, and the Revised Forest Plan decision recognized that additional boundary adjustments and snowmobile access/egress corridors still needed to be determined by the State of Utah and local users.  So the new implementation plan represents a solution that best meets the Revised Forest Plan's direction.”  Kennedy said the evolved plan:

  • * Greatly increased the Bunchgrass non-motorized area from the Preferred Alternative.
  • * Expanded the large, contiguous Naomi Wilderness / Roadless non-motorized area with Twin Creek drainage changes.
  • * Eliminated the need for emergency egress through the Bunchgrass non-motorized area by proposing a groomed snowmobile trail directly between the Tony Grove and Franklin Basin trailheads. This proposed action is currently undergoing additional analysis, and public comment has already been solicited.
  • * Provided an additional non-motorized area in the Hells Kitchen drainage that includes popular skiing slopes on Steam Mill Peak .
  • * Provided non-motorized buffers around the Bunchgrass and Hells Kitchen yurts.
  • * Simplified boundaries using distinctive ridgelines and other recognizable features. Once fully implemented, this will minimize management burden and make it easier to understand where snowmobile use is allowed and prohibited.
  • * Included additional suggestions that will improve non-motorized winter recreation opportunities in the Logan Canyon area.

 Kennedy also said “the evolved plan accomplishes all of this while necessarily addressing considerable safety, egress, and access issues critical to the snowmobiling public."

 The Forest Service has until at least February 15, 2006 , to formally respond to the Complaint.  The case is entitled Nordic United v. Tidwell, Case No. 05-158 and is assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Dee Benson.

 For more information on Logan Canyon background or Q & A click the links below:

Background

http://www.sharetrails.org/uploads/PL/Stories070605/Logan%20Canyon%20Background_FINAL.pdf

Q&A

http://www.sharetrails.org/uploads/PL/Stories070605/Logan%20Canyon%20Q&A_FINAL.pdf

 

The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible use of public and private lands, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. It represents over 10,000 individual members and 1,200 organization and business members, for a combined total of over 600,000 recreationists nationwide. 1-800-258-3742. http://www.sharetrails.org

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