The public comment period is open until September 29th. Limiting snowmobile use before Memorial Day weekend on the Beartooth Pass is one of many issues in the plan.

The Shoshone National Forest has published a revised Proposed Action outlining its vision for winter travel management on the forest. When finalized, this plan will have major repercussions for skiing and snowboarding on the Shoshone, especially on Togwotee Pass and Beartooth Pass.

We now have until December 10, 2017, to provide comments to influence the plan as it takes shape. Your comments matter (even if you commented last year, it’s important to weigh in again).

— CLICK HERE TO USE OUR HANDY LETTER TEMPLATE TO SUBMIT A COMMENT —

Context

The Shoshone National Forest bills itself as a wild backcountry forest, and indeed there are some amazing adventures to be had deep in the Wind River, Absaroka, and Beartooth mountains. What’s at stake in this travel plan, however, and where most skiers go, is the Shoshone’s relatively accessible world-class front-country terrain. Specifically Togwotee Pass and the Beartooth Pass.

The current Proposed Action —revised from the Proposed Action of May 2016—was developed based on suggestions the Forest Service received from the public as well as from groups like Winter Wildlands Alliance, Togwotee Backcountry Alliance, and the Wyoming Wilderness Association. This revised Proposed Action doesn’t change much from how snowmobiles and other over-snow vehicles (OSVs) are currently managed on the forest, and for the most part we’re pretty supportive of what the Forest Service is proposing. You can review the latest plan, and look at maps of what the Forest Service is proposing here.

Discrete Motorized Season

For the first time ever, the Shoshone is considering a set season for winter motorized use. We like that they’re proposing specific dates before and after which snowmobile use would not be allowed, but the current proposal is confusing — there are different season dates for each ranger district and even different dates within ranger districts. We suggest they simplify things with a single season: December 1 through April 30, with a slight extension to allow snowmobile use on the Beartooth Pass until May 15.

Implementing these season dates would reduce conflicts between over-snow vehicles and wildlife and is a balanced way for skiers and snowmobilers to share the Beartooth Pass while recognizing that the two user groups have traditionally used this area during different and distinct seasons. These season dates also bring the Shoshone in line with how it’s neighbor, the Bridger-Teton, manages winter use on Togwotee Pass.

Protection for Cross-Country Skiing on Togwotee Pass

We are pleased to see that the Shoshone is proposing to formally close the cross-country ski trails on Togwotee Pass to motorized use (excepting for grooming purposes). The local trails group in Dubois — DART — spends a lot of resources grooming these trails for skiing and their efforts can be completely undermined by just one or two irresponsible OSV users. By closing, and signing, these areas cross-country skiers on Togwotee Pass will finally have non-motorized trails to enjoy.

Compliance With OSV Rule and Wilderness Act

In general, we think the Shoshone needs to do more to comply with the OSV Rule. The OSV Rule requires that the Forest Service designate discrete areas for OSV use, located to minimize impacts on wildlife and the environment and in areas that won’t cause conflict with other uses. Right now we’re not so sure the areas they’re proposing to designate really will minimize impacts and we expect them to explain how they’ve complied with this requirement when they write an Environmental Impact Statement.

We are especially concerned that the Shoshone has proposed to designate the entire High Lakes Wilderness Study Area (WSA) open for OSV use. This violates the Wyoming Wilderness Act, which states that snowmobile use in the WSA is only permissible if it’s at the same “manner and extent” as occurred in 1984. Unfortunately nobody thought to collect any baseline data showing how many people were snowmobiling in the WSA in the early ’80’s or where they were going, so we have to give it our best guess. While it’s pretty hard to guess how many snowmobiles were up there in the 80’s, we are confident that the machines people were riding then weren’t as powerful as what they’re riding today and therefore people weren’t traveling very far into the WSA. Therefore, we think the Forest Service should limit where snowmobiles can go within the WSA, restricting them to areas near the designated trail network (where it seems most likely people were riding in the past). After all, until Congress changes the status of the WSA the Forest Service is legally bound to comply with the existing law.

Press

Wyofile.org. 12/8/2017: Skis and Snowmobiles: National forest examines winter travel. 

Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Wyoming Wilderness Association, Togwotee Pass Backcountry Alliance, NOLS, and the Beartooth Recreational Trails Association are hosting mapping workshops for skiers and snowshoers in communities surrounding the Shoshone National Forest (in northwest Wyoming) during the weeks of January 19 and February 1.  We will discuss how to use online mapping tools to gather and share information about backcountry skiing areas and provide information on how skiers can get involved in the ongoing Shoshone National Forest winter travel management planning process.  Skiers and snowshoers of all experience levels are welcome to attend.  Refreshments will be provided.

Mapping workshops will take place as follows.  Click the link to RSVP:

Cody: Tuesday, January 19. 6-8pm in the Bighorn Federal community room (1701 Stampede Ave)

Dubois: Wednesday, January 20 at 5:15-7:15 pm in the Dubois library meeting room (202 N 1st St)

LanderThursday, January 21 at 6-8 pm at the Nobel Hotel (288 Main Street)

Red Lodge: Monday, February 1 from 6-8 pm in the Red Lodge Library meeting room (3 8th St W)

Winter Travel Planning on the Shoshone National Forest

Beau Fredlund enjoying some of Montana's classic summer skiing off the Beartooth Highway.
The Shoshone National Forest is currently reviewing public comments on their proposed winter travel management plan (Proposed Action) that they published in the spring of 2016.  The Forest Service is also working on developing additional Alternatives to analyze alongside the Proposed Action.

This winter travel plan will have major repercussions for skiing and snowboarding on the Shoshone National Forest.  The Shoshone bills itself as a wild backcountry forest and indeed, there are some amazing adventures to be had deep in the Wind River, Absaroka, and Beartooth mountains.  What’s at stake in this travel plan, however, and where most skiers go, is the Shoshone’s relatively accessible world-class front-country terrain.  Specifically Togwotee Pass and the Beartooth Pass.

The Proposed Action was developed based on suggestions the Forest Service received from the public as well as from groups like Winter Wildlands Alliance, Togwotee Backcountry Alliance, and the Wyoming Wilderness Association.  You can review the plan, and look at maps of what the Forest Service is proposing, online here.

For the first time ever the Shoshone is considering a set season for winter motorized use: November 15 – April 30 for high elevation areas like Togwotee and the Beartooths and December 1 – April 1 for lower elevation areas.  Implementing these season dates would reduce conflicts between over-snow vehicles and wildlife and is a balanced way for skiers and snowmobilers to share the Beartooth Pass while recognizing that the two user groups have traditionally used this area during different and distinct seasons.  These season dates also bring the Shoshone in line with how it’s neighbor, the Bridger-Teton, manages winter use on Togwotee Pass.

We are also pleased to see that the Shoshone is proposing to formally close the cross-country ski trails on Togwotee Pass to motorized use (excepting grooming).  The local trails group in Dubois – DART – spends a lot of resources grooming these trails for skiing and their efforts can be completely undermined by just one or two irresponsible OSV users.  By closing, and signing, these areas cross-country skiers on Togwotee Pass will finally have non-motorized trails to enjoy.

We are also advocating that the Forest Service consider implementing a minimum snow depth restriction of 18 inches to ensure that over-snow vehicle use is only occurring when there’s enough snow to protect the underlying vegetation and that they consider protecting additional wildlife habitat in the Dubois area.

The Shoshone National Forest will hold public meetings the week of March 20th to discuss the status of the travel management planning process.  During these meetings, the Forest Service will update the public as to why there has been a pause in the process, explain the next steps in developing a minimum road system, and present an updated timeline for the process.

Meetings will be held at the following times and locations:

  • March 21, Lander Community Center, 950 Buena Vista Drive, Lander, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
  • March 22, Headwaters Art and Convention Center, 20 Stalnaker St., Dubois, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
  • March 23, Grizzly Hall, Park County Library, 1500 Heart Mountain Street, Cody, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

For information and updates on the Shoshone National Forest’s travel management process, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/shoshone/home/?cid=stelprd3846526