Thursday, December 03, 2015

Motorized users sue Kootenai Forest for more access to proposed wilderness areas

Conservation groups are miffed by a new court challenge to the 2015 federal recommendations for wilderness on the Kootenai National Forest. Snowmobile clubs and advocacy groups from Montana and Idaho are suing the U.S. Forest Service and its plan that bars motorized access in certain protected areas of the 2.2 million acre forest in northwestern Montana. Officials recommended a total of 86,800 acres for additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System under the forests’ 2015 Land Management Plan, which was completed in January. Only Congress can officially designate a wilderness area, but areas recommended by the managing agency usually are protected by wilderness rules until Congress acts one way or the other. Wilderness rules prohibit use of mechanized and motorized vehicles and equipment. The lawsuit filed in federal court on Nov. 12 alleges the plan fails to follow Forest Service guidelines for recommended wilderness areas. The lawsuit says forest officials did not allow enough public comment before deciding on the recommended wilderness area designations. The suit also questions how Kootenai officials proposed additions to the national Wild and Scenic Rivers system...more

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