Two environmental groups have filed an appeal to the Flathead National Forest's Winter Motorized Recreation plan last week, claiming late-season snowmobiling could harm grizzly bears.
The plan, also known as Amendment 24 to the Forest Service Plan, allows snowmobiling over about 787,000 acres of the forest from Dec. 1 through March 31. Certain sections of the forest are open up to two months longer.
The Swan View Coalition and Winter Wildlands Alliance allege the plan could harm grizzly bears emerging from their dens and that the plan contradicts another Forest Service amendment that restricts roads and motorized uses in grizzly bear habitat.
In its appeal, Swan View wants the Forest Service to restrict snowmobile access to Nov. 15 to March 15 and monitor sleds for racing pipes.
The current snowmobile agreement was hashed out after the Montana Wilderness Association sued the Forest Service in the late 1990s, claiming it wasn't following its own plan by allowing snowmobile use in primitive areas. A federal judge agreed with MWA and the two parties, along with snowmobile interests, hashed out the current plan.