Snowmobile makers ask to launch forest plan appeal

BOISE, Idaho — An organization representing snowmobile manufacturers is asking a federal judge to let it bring an appeal over rules governing the use of snow machines in national forests.

The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association filed the motion to intervene in Boise’s U.S. District Court on Thursday in a lawsuit the Idaho-based Winter Wildlands Alliance brought against the U.S. Forest Service in 2011.

The Winter Wildlands Alliance won the lawsuit earlier this year when U.S. District Judge Ronald Bush agreed with the group’s contention that the Forest Service was wrongly excluding snowmobiles from a requirement that forests must create travel management rules for motorized vehicles in national forests. Now the snowmobile industry group would like to appeal that finding to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but first it must get permission to become a party in the lawsuit.

National forests have been required to craft travel management plans restricting wheeled cross-country travel to designated routes since 2005. But snowmobiles were exempted and the Forest Service allowed individual national forests to decide if snowmobile plans were necessary. The Winter Wildlands Alliance sued over that exemption in 2011, asking the judge to force the Forest Service to add snowmobiles and other over-the-snow vehicles, or OSVs, to the motorized travel plan requirements.

The judge sided with the Winter Wildlands Alliance, finding the OSV exemption contrary to federal law.

“Unless the judgment is reversed, there is a substantial risk that a ‘closed unless opened’ regime will take over — i.e. National Forest areas will be closed to snowmobiling unless affirmatively opened by the Forest Service,” Paul Turcke, an attorney for the snowmobile industry group, wrote in the motion. “This will result in fewer National Forest areas being open to snowmobiling, fewer sales and rentals of snowmobiles by businesses in and around the National Forests, and reduced demand for snowmobiles and snowmobile parts by those businesses.”

That will cause the industry financial harm, the group contends.

The Winter Wildlands Alliance has not yet filed its response to the motion and its attorney, Lauren Rule with Advocates for the West, could not be immediately reached for comment. The judge has not yet ruled on the snowmobile association’s request.

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