PRESS RELEASE: Snowmobiles and noise pollution monopolize forests in winter

December 07, 2006 12:00 am

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BOISE — While millions of Americans turn to National Forests for peace and quiet during winter months, noisy and polluting snowmobile traffic monopolizes a lion's share of forest lands.

That's the finding of a new report by the Winter Wildlands Alliance, which analyzed Forest Service figures on winter recreation patterns. Bottom line: Snowmobiles are a minority of those who use national forests in winter, yet claim 70 percent of the winter forest and 90 percent of the trails.

"Everyone has a right to enjoy our national forests, but no minority has a right to shatter the peace, quiet and fun of the majority," said Mark Menlove, of the Winter Wildlands Alliance. "This is a wake-up call for the Forest Service to return balance and fairness to our winter forests."

The new report Winter Recreation on Western National Forest Lands puts numbers to Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth's claims that unmanaged motorized recreation is one of the four biggest threats to America's national forests. The report reviews data from the agency's National Visitor Use Monitoring Program.

"Snowmobiles have their place, but right now, they take more than their fair share. We seek peace and quiet in the winter forests. We get enough traffic and exhaust in town," said Gail Ferrell, a skier and educator from Nevada. "We need to restore some balance so all families have the opportunity to enjoy the natural peace and quiet of a winter forest."

Quiet forest uses in winter include cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. "Most Americans can't afford to spend thousands of dollars on snowmobiles, trucks and fuel," said Menlove. "Cross-country skis and snowshoes are healthy, affordable, easy to learn and great fun for families."

"As the population of the West grows, and as snowmobiles grow more and more powerful, we ask Chief Bosworth to act now to correct this imbalance and make sure all Americans have quiet natural places for winter enjoyment," he said.

The report highlights a successful resolution of conflicts between motorized and people-powered recreation in Idaho's Sawtooth National Forest.