CASPER, Wyo. — A new rule requiring that U.S. forests formally decide where snowmobiles are and are not allowed may have little impact on snowmobilers in Wyoming.
Some of the Cowboy State’s forests, including the massive Bridger-Teton National Forest, which covers 3.4 million acres of western Wyoming, already have some kind of plan in place for winter over-snow travel.
Other forests, including the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, in southeastern Wyoming, have regulations governing snowmobiles and will re-evaluate in light of the new rule.
“I don’t think it will decrease access,” said Aaron Voos, public affairs officer for the Medicine Bow National Forest. “It’s basically telling the Forest Service that we don’t have the option to not address winter travel.”
The U.S. Forest Service officially registered the new policy Wednesday after a 2013 court ruling said forests need to include snowmobiles in winter travel plans.
Matt Burkhart, president of the Snowy Range Snowmobile Club, isn’t nervous about the new mandate. The Medicine Bow National Forest already has regulations in place showing where and sometimes what time of year snowmobiles can use the forest. It will stand up to an internal review, he said.
“As far as we think, the Snowy Range already meets the spirit of the rule,” he said.
The Shoshone National Forest has not formally addressed snowmobile access but will include it in the forest’s upcoming travel management planning process, said Kristie Salzmann, public affairs officer for the Shoshone National Forest.
Some areas, such as wilderness, are by nature off-limits to snowmobiles because of motorized vehicle restrictions, she said. Other areas are also off-limits in the winter because they are winter range for wildlife.
Officials in each of the forests plan to produce maps to make the existing or soon-to-be-revised rules clear.