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For the week of January 24 through 30, 2001

Sawtooth Valley snowmobile bans set

Express Staff Writer

As part of an ongoing effort to relieve conflicts between skiers and snowmobilers in central Idaho, sections of the Sawtooth Valley have been formally zoned for non-motorized use during winter.

"I think itís a good deal," said Brett Wooley, president of the Stanley Snowmobile Club. "Overall, the main goal is to reduce conflict."

However, Wooley pointed out that if skiers do not use the areas set aside for them, snowmobilers may object to the closures in the future.

The mandate from the Sawtooth National Forest comes just three months after the northern Wood River Valley was divvied up between the two user groups, often at odds over consumption of fresh snow.

Like the October decision to designate motorized and non-motorized areas in the Wood River Valley, the recent Sawtooth Valley decision is the result of collaborative efforts between a diverse group of local stakeholders.

For the past two and a half years, a group called the Sawtooth Community Winter Recreation Partnership has been meeting to resolve winter use conflicts in the Sawtooth Valley. The group is made up of representatives of the skiing and snowmobiling communities, private land owners, local businesses and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

"This is a good beginning on the road to resolving conflict," said Julie Meissner, a skier member of the group. "It gives both user groups areas where they can have quality experiences."

In the past three months, the group made recommendations to Sawtooth National Forest supervisor Bill LeVere designed to alleviate user conflicts. LeVere took those recommendations into consideration and adopted them as policy on Jan. 16.

"More important to me than the area designations themselves is the local process that led to my decision," LeVere said. "Any time a local group of diverse users can come together and reach agreement over some fairly contentious issues, itís a significant event."

The following areas have been closed to over-snow vehicles, including snowmobiles, as a result of LeVereís mandate: the Galena Summit area to the Sawtooth Valley floor; the Alturas Lake area; the Redfish Lake moraine area; the northern and southern Nip and Tuck areas, near Stanley; "Housewife Hill," just east of Lower Stanley; and Crooked and Park creeks, at the northern edge of the Sawtooths.

"The members of the Sawtooth Community Winter Recreation Partnership should be applauded for their leadership and efforts in building this win/win solution in the Sawtooth Valley and Stanley Basin," LeVere said.

The closures are effective for one year from the date LeVere signed them, providing an opportunity to make changes based on their perceived success during the current season.

The restrictions are similar to those agreed to two years ago, though the closures were voluntary until now. The voluntary use areas met with limited success, and the group asked the Forest Service to officially enact the closures as forest policy.

"When a group puts this kind of effort and thought into a map, I have to believe thereís merit to their suggestions," LeVere said. "And when my staff concurs that these are good ideas, itís time to take action."

Maps are available at all Sawtooth National Forest offices and at local businesses in the Stanley area.


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