10th Mountain Hut Division asks locals to submit comments to U.S. Forest Service
Locals should give feedback to the U.S. Forest Service on creating nationwide standards regulating snowmobiles on federal land, according to the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association.
“This type of opportunity doesn’t come around often to comment on a national policy,” said Ben Dodge, 10th Mountain Hut executive director. “The significance in the rule is real and people should care enough — whichever way they go on it — to comment on it.”
Between 1982 and 2009, the number of people who operated motor vehicles off road increased by more than 153 percent, according to a 2012 Forest Service study on outdoor recreation trends.
That’s why the Forest Service created a new travel management plan on federal land. As part of the plan, the Forest Service last year proposed that the agency’s supervisors could decide to create rules regulating snowmobiles in their jurisdictions, but it didn’t require them to do so, according to a memo released by the Forest Service in June. In 2013, however, a federal court in Idaho ruled that the Forest Service is required to create rules regulating snowmobile use and ordered the agency to do that.
Since then, the Forest Service has proposed a revised rule. The new rule allows snowmobiles on all Forest Service areas unless designated closed. Dodge, however, thinks that is the wrong approach.
“From a management point of view, if you have something designated as open unless closed it’s most of the forest,” Dodge said.
Dodge said he thinks the Forest Service should adopt a “closed unless designated open” rule, so that Forest Service lands will be better protected and managed. That’s the policy the White River National Forest has adopted and it’s worked well, Dodge said. The 10th Mountain Hut Division has huts on the White River National Forest and the Pike-San Isabel National Forest, which has an “open unless designated closed” policy.
The point isn’t that the 10th Mountain Hut Division is against snowmobiles, Dodge added.
“We’re not anti-motorized by any stretch of the imagination — I run snowmobiles” Dodge said. “But we also think the experience is important.”
The Forest Service is collecting public comments through Aug. 3. As of Thursday, 659 people submitted comments. The agency has until Sept. 9 to issue a new rule. To submit a comment, visit www.regulations.gov  and type in the ID FS-2014-0004-0001.