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A good plan: Forest Service should restrict snowmobiles

Published December 2, 2006 12:00 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Forest Service in 2003 came up with a well-grounded plan to let skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers use and enjoy the lovely Franklin Basin-Tony Grove area of Logan Canyon.

Unfortunately, now the agency appears ready to undo what took years to accomplish.

Yielding to relentless lobbying by snowmobile groups that lost some access in the 2003 forest management plan, the Wasatch-Cache National Forest's Logan Ranger District last year proposed a revision.

That change would have expanded the huge area already open to motorized recreation - 540,000 acres of the 1.2-million-acre forest - by taking more than half of the 9,500 acres set aside for skiers and snowshoers in the canyon. When skiers and environmental groups sued to stop the revision, the Forest Service offered a settlement, promising an environmental assessment that would offer other alternatives.

But its "preferred alternative" revealed last month is nearly identical to the proposal championed by the snowmobile groups that prompted the litigation. Other options include keeping the 2003 plan, letting the two groups use the entire area during alternating two-week periods or banning all winter recreation. The district says it will choose one soon.

The only reasonable compromise is the 2003 plan, a product of years of discussion and study. It should be finalized.

The '03 plan allows motorized use of a large portion of the area, while protecting wildlife, the terrain and the solitude that skiers and snowshoers seek.

The alternative provides almost no trails protected from the noise and exhaust fumes of snowmobiles. Worse, it includes a road that crosses the remaining non-motorized area, putting skiers and snowshoers at risk of being hit and requiring the removal of trees and other vegetation.

Franklin Basin-Tony Grove's breathtaking beauty, untrammeled wildlife habitat and wilderness-like qualities deserve protection, as do the rights of skiers and snowshoers to a quiet backcountry experience.

The Forest Service's stewardship of the forest and responsibility to the diverse groups who enjoy its beauty must include reasonable restrictions on motorized recreation. The agency's original plan serves that purpose well.




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