Climbing in the Cirque of the Towers. Skiing Togwotee Pass. Running the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone. Mountain biking in Sunlight Basin. Hiking the Continental Divide. No matter how you choose to enjoy it, Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest is a mecca for quiet recreation.
The Shoshone National Forest is incredibly valuable not only to the human powered recreation community, but also to the local economy. In 2003 alone, an estimated 528,000 people visited the Forest, spending over $20 million in local communities. Harder to quantify but no less important are all the businesses drawn to the region for the quality of life benefits the Forest provides.
As part of the Shoshone National Forest Plan revision process, the Forest Service recently released a Proposed Draft Plan. In light of the recreational, social and economic values of this Forest, Outdoor Alliance submitted a comment letter on the Draft Plan.
The coalition is pleased to see the Plan dedicate land to quiet, year-round recreational opportunities. Motorized access fundamentally lowers the quality of quiet recreation, and the Plan’s use of the Semi-primitive non-motorized designation is an effective approach. Additionally, Outdoor Alliance applauds the Plan for tackling user conflict head-on. Adaptive management is a good way to address user conflicts and increase year-round opportunities for recreation.
However, the group recommends several crucial improvements to the Plan, especially as it relates to the activities Outdoor Alliance represents:
- The Plan must make an effort to collect a more accurate assessment of actual climbing use and must clarify regulations when it comes to fixed anchors.
- The Plan should look at a number of new areas to develop mountain biking opportunities. Where applicable, it should seek to preserve wilderness character while still allowing mountain biking access.
- Despite the social and economic importance of human powered snow sports, the Plan does not adequately provide for them. The Plan should designate two new non-motorized backcountry areas on parts of Togwotee Pass and Beartooth Pass. Also, snowmobiling in a “manner and degree” that exceeds that in 1984 is incompatible with Wilderness Study Areas.
- As it stands, the Plan is going off a 2008 Wild and Scenic River Eligibility Inventory—an inventory that, besides being outdated, makes no mention of whitewater boating. By its own directives, the Forest Service is required to inventory eligibility with all the available information. Therefore the Plan must address and integrate paddling-related recreational values.
- The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail ought to be located completely off road, away from motorized routes.
Along with these specific suggestions, Outdoor Alliance adds these recommendations:
- Throughout the Forest, the Plan should push for a single, sustainable system of trails that acknowledges the demand that spurred user-created trails in the first place.
- Designated Wilderness is a valuable tool for land management. Wilderness protects water to paddle, peaks to climb, slopes to ski, and view sheds adjacent to trails to ride.
Outdoor Alliance offers it’s collective knowledge as a resource to the Forest Service, as we work together to develop a lasting, balanced plan for the Shoshone National Forest.
For the full comment letter, which includes specific place-based recommendations, please click here.