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CODY, Wyo. — Park County commissioners voted Tuesday to support the goals of an off-road-vehicle group looking to increase motorized access in portions of the Shoshone National Forest.

Dana Sanders, president of the Northwest Wyoming Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance, lobbied commissioners for their support at Tuesday’s meeting, asking them to include the group’s goals in their comments to the Shoshone National Forest.

“We feel discriminated against because that’s some beautiful county and we can’t access it,” Sanders said after giving a 30-minute slide presentation. “We want the opportunity to link these trails together over the next 15 years.”

Sanders said the group is proposing to add or redesignate roughly 94 miles of trail as being open to off-road vehicles. The request includes roughly 46 miles in the Sunlight and Crandall area and about 48 miles in the Kirwin and Frank’s Peak area.

“Most of these are spurs that come up and don’t connect,” Sanders said. “We want a lot of the same things the horsemen and hikers have. We’re not looking to wreck all the trails.”

Commissioners voted 4-1 to support the group’s request. The majority included Loren Grosskopf, who is listed as a member of the NW Wyoming Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance.

Commissioner Tim French also supported the group’s request.

“Everyone deserves an opportunity to enjoy those forest lands we all love,” French said. “People need recreation opportunities.”

Commissioner Dave Burke voted against the group’s request. While he’s not against the possibility of creating motorized trails in the Shoshone National Forest, he said, he wanted feedback from Wyoming Game and Fish before voting.

Burke questioned the connectors’ impacts on elk calving sites, mule deer and nesting raptors.

“I think this needs a thorough review by Game and Fish first, looking at the impacts on wildlife and habitat,” Burke said. “I think that’s an important decision before any recommendations are made.”

The Shoshone National Forest released a draft of its new management plan last month. Commissioners have a few more weeks to comment on the proposal before it goes to the next planning phase.

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Their action Tuesday will ensure that the off-road-vehicle alliance’s goals are included in their comments.

Sanders said the longest stretch of new motorized trail would cover around 15 miles on Sunlight East trails 605, 627 and 626. The request also includes about 11 miles on Clarks Fork trails 144 and 528, and 12 miles on Chief Joseph Trail 602.

In the Kirwin region, they’re asking for 11 miles on Jack Creek Trail 643, nine miles on Timber Creek 657, nine miles on Dick Creek trails 656 and 658, and around six miles on Meadow Creek Trail 670.

The Shoshone Forest serves as a buffer to Yellowstone National Park and represents one of the largest intact ecosystems in the greater Yellowstone area.

Several of the connectors approach or run near the wilderness boundary. When asked how the alliance would ensure that off-road enthusiasts don’t go off trail, Sanders said the group would police itself.

“You’ve got to stop people that are breaking the law, harassing the animals and breaking new trail in primitive areas,” Sanders said. “We try to self-police and train through our club and organization.”

Contact Martin Kidston at mkidston@billingsgazette.com or 307-527-7250.

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