Photo courtesy of Patrick Cross featuring skier Sam Reinsel
July 31, 2023
To better understand the potential impacts of proposed designations, the Kootenai National Forest has developed a set of screening questions targeting various forest resources.
While the existing questions addressing the minimization criteria are a good starting point, they mainly focus on wildlife and whitebark pine impacts. To ensure a comprehensive assessment, each area and trail should also be screened for potential noise or air pollution impacts, and the Forest Service should diligently consider and minimize any potential use conflicts arising from designated areas or routes.
In particular, it’s essential to ensure that snowmobile area boundaries and designated trails are strategically located to discourage motorized use in non-motorized areas, like the pristine Wilderness regions. Further screening questions should be developed to address these crucial topics.
Overall, the Kootenai National Forest’s proposal and analysis show a strong start in managing winter travel. However, to ensure a thorough evaluation of potential impacts from designations, developing a few additional screening questions is warranted.
Moreover, there are three significant roadless areas, namely the Galena, Barren, and Allen Peak Inventoried Roadless Areas, located adjacent to the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. These areas play a crucial role in providing vital habitat connectivity for grizzlies, wolverines, fishers, and Canada lynx.
In the Proposed Action, the Forest Service is proposing to designate the majority of these roadless areas for over-snow vehicle use, which we believe is inappropriate considering their invaluable conservation value.