Help Bring Balance to the Backcountry

Update -  The comment period closed on August 4.  Thank you to everybody who submitted comments to the Forest Service.  Because of your efforts we exceeded our goal of 1,000 comments!  We expect to see a final rule by September 9 so stay tuned!

ACTION ALERT – June 18, 2014

Your Comments Are Needed Today

On June 18, the Forest Service released its long-awaited draft federal rule for designating areas as open or closed to winter motorized vehicles.  It’s a good first step, but the proposed rule misses the point on a couple of key details.

Do you value quiet in the backcountry? Your comment is essential to help shape the future of our national forests.

By designating specific trails and areas where over-snow vehicle use may occur, winter travel planning is an opportunity to bring balance to the backcountry.

There are some real issues with this proposed rule, but the Forest Service still has a chance to get it right. Your comment today will help make a difference across millions of acres of public land.

Submit a comment in five simple steps:

1)   Open our letter template. (Don’t have Microsoft Word? Call Hilary at 208-629-1986)
2)   Add your personal experience on National Forest lands as a skier, snowshoer or snowboarder in the highlighted section.  (This is the most important part! Personal comments are proven to have the biggest impact on decision-makers.)
3)   Add any extra concerns or comments you have and add your name at the bottom.
4)   Head over to to review the rule and submit your comments directly to the Forest Service. At the top right of the page, click on “Comment Now” and then copy and paste your letter into the comment box.  If your letter is too long you can also upload it as a separate file.
5)   Once you have submitted your comments, you will receive a comment tracking number. Please take note of this comment number, and send it to us in the form below.

Please submit your comments today, by going to and pasting your letter into the comment box.  Comments are due by August 4, 2014.

By helping us track comments from skiers and snowshoers, you provide Winter Wildlands Alliance with more weight to speak on your behalf in follow up discussions with the Forest Service and help ensure a strong final rule. We hope to rally at least 1,000 human-powered winter enthusiasts like you to comment on this draft rule.

Comment Tracking Form

  • Please paste your comment ID # after submitting your comments on Thank you!

Want to dive deeper? Check out the resources below:

Comment template

Guide to Writing Effective Comments

One-Page Background on Winter Travel Planning

Winter Travel Management Case Studies

Environmental Impacts of Snowmobile Use

Trends and Economic Impacts of Human-Powered Winter Recreation

If you’re feeling ambitious and want to draft your letter from scratch, consider including these points

  •   In the draft, individual forests or ranger districts can choose to implement either an “open unless designated closed” approach (the current status quo for     winter) or a “closed unless designated open” approach (which is how they manage wheeled vehicles). This is inconsistent with how motorized use is successfully managed in other seasons, and will be very confusing on the ground. The final rule should be consistent and follow the closed unless designated open approach.

•   The draft appears to grandfather-in a range of past designations for over-snow vehicle use. Plans that are comprehensive across a whole Forest or Ranger District, aim to minimize user conflict and resource damage, and involved the public in a meaningful way should not have to be redone. But, we are concerned that the draft goes too far by allowing past administrative decisions that do not have that a comprehensive scope, analysis or level of public involvement to count as travel plans.

•   The Forest Service needs to issue a final over-snow vehicle rule consistent with Executive Order 11644, which required regulation of off-road vehicles – including snowmobiles – to specific routes and areas. In designating these routes and areas the agency must consider, with an objective of minimizing, impacts to: forest resources, wildlife, and conflicts between motor vehicles and other recreational uses.  By allowing previous designations to stand without ensuring they incorporated these “minimization criteria”, the proposed rule appears inconsistent with Executive Order 11644.

•   The draft changes the definition of an “area” to include broad expanses, even as large as an entire ranger district, and proposes that impacts of trails within these areas would not need to be analyzed. This departure from the way all other ORVs are managed is inconsistent and should not be included in a final rule.