PUBLIC LAND UPDATE | FEB-MARCH 2018
By Sandra Mitchell
The Great Burn Saga goes on and on…….in case you have forgotten the long and colorful history of our efforts to protect snowmobiling there, let me bring you up to-date:
• The last Forest Plan in 1987 allowed snowmobiling in the Great Burn.
• An attempt was made to complete Forest Planning but because of a challenge to the then new Forest Planning Rule, it was stopped.
• The Forest then did Travel Planning. The signed Record of Decision prohibited snowmobiling in the Great Burn based on the Region 1 Policy of managing Recommended Wilderness as designated Wilderness.
• ISSA sued and won–but then lost….The Forest was required to issue a new decision. They did, but it was the same as the last—no go for snowmobiles in the Great Burn.
• In 2012 the Forest, now the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, began Forest Planning under the new Forest Planning Rule which requires the proposed action to be created with the use of a collaborative. Twenty-two all day Saturday meetings in either Grangeville or Orofino were held, and a proposed action developed and released in 2014. It included an alternative that allowed snowmobiling in the Great Burn. Although there were problems with
boundary line, we scored a victory by having it as an Alternative.
• The Planning Process was then put on hold because of fires and a change in Supervisors.
• Back to the travel plan: A Record of Decision for the Clearwater National Forest Travel Plan was signed on October 31,2017 and the decision was the same for snowmobiles in the Great Burn. The reason given, “In making this decision to eliminate most motorized travel within RWAs, I have given the most weight to the (Forest Plan) goal of retaining Wilderness character. Any area recommended for wilderness or wilderness study designation is not available for any use or activity that may reduce the wilderness potential of an area.”
• January 2018 the Forest Planning Process has begun again with more public meetings. This time the goal is to develop new alternatives.
I am not making any of this up! It ever gets stranger. In the “Preparing for Alternative Development” document that was given out last week, within the Recommended Wilderness Section, it says that summer/winter motorized uses are not allowed, bicycles and other mechanized forms of transportation are not suitable, however, wheeled carts (mechanized) for transport (including game carts) are suitable for the private user but not outfitters and guides, and motorized mechanized equipment (such as use of chain saws to clear trails) may be used to facilitate access of the area by the public. Seems contradictory and arbitrary!
There have been many times during this process when I have felt totally defeated. Then I remembered one of those annoyingly cute sayings that you see on T-shirts or bumper stickers and my discouragement turned to just disappointment. The saying is “It is better to fail at something that will ultimately succeed than to succeed at something that will ultimately fail.” I know, and you know, that there is no legitimate reason to not allow snowmobiling in the Great Burn. We will eventually prevail and return fair play and common sense to the Great Burn. So, in the meantime, I can live with these losses and the disappointment because I know we will ultimately succeed. There is of course one requirement for success and that is tenacity—we cannot give up. This is our fight and our responsibility. We know what is wrong and why it is wrong so we must continue to press the issue because you can bet, no one else will. So, give disappointment its’ due and then let’s get on with it!