Court Rules Against Trail Grooming

On Dec. 20, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington issued an order limiting snowmobile trail grooming in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. The order was the result of a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by local and national organizations invoking the Endangered Species Act and asserting the U.S. Forest Service had failed to properly consult over the effects of snowmobile trail grooming on the woodland caribou, which is listed as threatened under the act.
Significant snowmobiling opportunities still exist and are unaffected by the Court's ruling. The order only restricts trail grooming activity, and does not restrict snowmobile access to any portion of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.
The order only addresses grooming on a handful of trails within a specific "caribou recovery zone" on U.S. Forest Service-managed lands and does not affect the grooming of hundreds of miles of trails on Forest Service-managed lands outside the recovery zone, or upon the extensive lands east of Priest Lake managed by the state of Idaho.
"We would have preferred the court deny plaintiffs' motion altogether, but note the very limited scope of the order, which reflects plaintiffs' retreat from their initial claim for relief," said Paul Turcke, a Boise, Idaho-based attorney representing snowmobile clubs and local business interests who intervened in the case. "What started as a request to stop all trail grooming on the forest became a symbolic effort to obtain narrow relief in a very limited area.
“In the bigger picture, North Idaho is still pretty much 'open' as before to snowmobile access. It is no secret that the Endangered Species Act has been used in other instances to inflict substantial harm to local communities, and we are happy to have avoided the sweeping injunction that plaintiffs originally requested.”
The snowmobile groups indicated they will remain active in the ongoing forest planning process, will conduct a detailed review of the court's order and will evaluate all available legal options in continuing their participation in the lawsuit.

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