The Forest Service published a final Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Kaniksu Winter Travel Plan on July 14th. The EA documents the environmental effects of a proposed winter recreation plan for the Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry, and Priest Lake Ranger Districts.

The original “Proposed Action” was crafted by a group of snowmobilers, backcountry skiers, conservation groups, outfitters, guides, hunters, and county officials that worked for several months to reach a compromise that strikes a balance between the demand for winter recreation opportunities and the needs of wildlife. It called for 267,000 acres of Forest Service lands to be closed to over-snow vehicles (OSVs) all winter to protect caribou, wolverine, lynx, big game winter range, proposed wilderness, and backcountry skiing opportunities. Another 624,000 acres were to be open to OSVs until April 1st. At that time, OSV use would be limited to designated routes to protect grizzly bears emerging from hibernation. Approximately 151,000 acres were to be open to OSV use all winter.

In response to input received from Tribes, the Forest Service added two small areas near Bernard and Minerva Peaks near the south and east shores of Lake Pend Oreille that would be closed to OSV (a total of 11,184 acres). Otherwise, the proposal remains unchanged.

The plan and the EA are subject to a 45-day “objection” process, whereby members of the public that previously commented on the proposal can submit written statements, explaining why the project violates environmental laws or should be changed in response to any outstanding concerns.

After the objections process has concluded, the Forest Service may officially authorize the Kaniksu Winter Travel Plan. If the agency continues to stick to its own schedule, then the plan should be officially approved by the end of the calendar year.

To stay updated on Idaho’s public lands, sign up for ICL Public Lands Campaign email updates.