When it comes to how snowmobile use is managed, the Chugach National Forest is one step ahead of many other national parks around the country.
On Jan. 27, the U.S. Forest Service issued a new policy mandating that all U.S. forests have clear areas designated areas for “over-snow vehicle” use. The move was made to allow forest access to users of snowmobiles as well as other recreational users.
Roughly 60 percent of national forests with adequate snowfall for snowmobile use in the United States will be affected by the change, according to a U.S. Forest service press release. The Chugach National Forest already designates areas and will be unaffected by the rule.
Before the ruling, each state’s forest agency had the power to determine whether an area was designated for use of over-snow vehicles, according to the press release.
For the 60 percent of forest that must change, “the Responsible Official will establish a system of routes and areas to provide for over-snow vehicle use,” according to the release.
The rule becomes effective Feb. 27, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
In the press release, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell explained the ruling.
“The Forest Service always seeks to provide a wide range of motorized and non-motorized recreational opportunities,” Tidwell wrote.
In an email, Mona Spargo, public affairs specialist for the Chugach National Forest, explained how the Chugach already complies with the ruling.
“What this rule is really saying is that if we manage for over-the-snow use we need to tell people how we are managing our lands, by letting them know what use can occur where,” Spargo wrote. “We already do that with our winter motorized forest order.”
Spargo said that more than a dozen areas of the Chugach are closed due to the habitat, but other than those parts, the whole forest is open. She said that in her experience, snowmobilers and other users such as skiers rarely have problems with each other.
“Here, I don’t really think that this is (an issue),” Spargo said. “Everyone has been really respectful.”
Spargo, who enjoys skiing, said that she appreciates snowmobilers because they make skiing easier.
“Snowmachines have already broken the trail for me,” Spargo said.
Notable snowmobiling areas in the Chugach include Carter Lake Trail, Primrose Trail and Resurrection Pass Trail North and South.
Nathan Titus, snowmobiler and general manager of Peninsula Powersports in Soldotna, said that he doesn’t have many complaints with how the Chugach is run.
“They do a pretty good job,” Titus said. “There are definitely signs and they have a website.”
Resurrection Pass/West Resurrection allow for snowmobiles every other year according to the Chugach National Forest website.
While Titus said the Chugach National Forest is managed well, he said he did have some suggestions
“(They could) regulate it where we can all use it every single year,” Titus said. “Nobody’s been snowmachining there in years, because it seems like every year it’s open, we get no snow.”
Reach Ian Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org.