Winter motorized rec. proposed alternative: An environmental apocalypse

By Paul Sieracki
By Reader Contributor

The North Zone Winter Recreation proposal — developed by a “collaboration” of pro-motorized recreation groups — will severely impact endangered, candidate and sensitive species including the grizzly bear, Canada lynx, whitebark pine, fisher and species such as wolves, elk, fisher, whitetail and mule deer. 

I was appalled by the actions of the Idaho Conservation League and Friends of Scotchman Peaks. They support snowmobiles mowing down whitebark pines, a candidate ESA species that has its listing delayed for unknown reasons. They are supporting high-marking, impacting grizzly bear denning habitat.

The collaborators support bear year (when grizzlies are out of their den) snowmobiling in the Roman Nose and Moose Lake area, where snowmobilers want unrestricted use in grizzly, lynx and whitebark pine habitats. Female grizzlies with cubs often stay near their snow-covered den site after they emerge. This would directly impact after emergence bears. 

Whitebark pines would be further exposed to damage with the melting spring snowpack. I have photos of snowmobile damaged conifers in that area. Can you imagine that the Friends of Scotchman Peaks has a goat ambassador and yet supports this proposal that impacts goats traveling along ridgelines?

Impacts on non-motorized recreation would be severe. Upper Pack River will be opened to snowmobiles impacting winter hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing activities. They would be allowed to use hiking trails in the winter. Why do non-motorized trail users have to sacrifice their trails to snow machines? 

Winter Wildlands Alliance “Giving Solitude a Voice” had little to say in support of non-motorized recreation. Ridgelines that separate restricted from open areas will allow violations by snowmobilers trying to string a route along the ridge. 

It is doubtful that the machines would only stay on the legal side of steep ridgelines while trying to snake a path along the ridge. 

Trapping access will increase, potentially impacting gray wolf, lynx, fisher and grizzly bears. Grizzly bears lose feet and toes from wolf and pine marten traps. 

The Scoping Notice does not even mention impacts on wildlife, whitebark pine or wetlands in an attempt to hide damages to the environment.

We are in a climate crisis. This “proposed alternative” is not supported by true green conservation groups who care about the flora and fauna of the Cabinet and Selkirk mountains. Snowmobile use was partially responsible for the loss of our Selkirk Caribou herd. We do not want to lose more species. 

Please comment on this impactful proposal. Comments are due Thursday, Sept. 15.

Paul Sieracki is a Priest River resident, retired geospatial analyst and wildlife biologist. He has been following the winter recreation environmental analysis for 10 years, and was part of the first collaboration.

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