The Wiggins Fork roadless area is one of several wild, front country areas available for potential expanded motorized access on the Shoshone National Forest. The forest is starting to develop its travel management plan. (photo by Sarah Walker)

Backcountry skiers who want a snowmobile-free area on Togwotee Pass, mountain bikers who want more trails, and off-road-vehicle enthusiasts who want more roads on the Shoshone National Forest now have a chance to advocate for their recreation wishes.

These, and other varied interests in forest travel management considerations, will be contemplated as the forest starts work on its travel management plan.

A forest management plan is a broad-scale effort. The travel plan will tackle specific places and uses, as long as it fits into the overall management plan, said Olga Troxel, acting planner on the Shoshone National Forest.

For example, skiers have approached the Forest Service about creating a non-motorized area on Two Ocean Mountain. As for additional mountain bike trails and winter recreation, the Forest Service isn’t required to consider requests during the travel management planning process because those matters were resolved in the overall forest management plan, updated in May. But Troxel said forest officials will hear those considerations, too.

“The public told us during the plan revision toward the end that mountain biking on the forest is important,” she said.

Tim Young, executive director of Wyoming Pathways, was disappointed in a change in the final forest management plan that closed the Dunoir Special Management Unit to mountain bikes. A draft of the final plan allowed for continued use of 6.8 miles of trail that make up a gnarly backcountry bike loop, but the final plan bans bikes in the area.

Young said his group will consider ways to make up for that lost loop and expand biking opportunities. Mountain biking is an established use on the forest that is growing in popularity, he said. Young said he would love to see expanded biking opportunities outside wilderness areas on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail from Togwotee Pass to Union Pass. He’d also like to see easily accessible bike trails near Lander, Dubois and Cody.

Sarah Walker, Shoshone Wildlands Coordinator with the Wyoming Wilderness Association, advocated to keep bikes out of the Dunoir where, she argues, biking should never have been allowed. Walker said she is looking forward to working with the mountain biking community to identify appropriate places for more trails to make long distance routes comparable to what people were allowed to ride in the Dunoir.

Walker said she is pleased that the Wood River and Franc’s Peak areas were deemed non-motorized in the plan, although she is disappointed the Forest Service opened up Wiggins Fork for potential motorized access. She plans to advocate against road development in the area during the travel planning process. She’s also hopeful Shoshone Forest officials step up efforts to thwart unregulated motorized use.

Lisa McGee, program director for the Wyoming Outdoor Council, said the travel planning period is an opportunity to document illegal trails and gain baseline knowledge of use on the Shoshone — whether sanctioned and not. She was pleased the forest said it was looking to find opportunities for motorized trails in areas that won’t impact other uses or change the backcountry character of the Shoshone.

The Shoshone is one of the wildest forests in the country with its wilderness and roadless areas, McGee said. It’s a defining feature that makes the forest special. Motorized use is a valid form of recreation on the forest, it’s just about finding the right places for it, she said.

The travel plan must follow the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, process, Troxel said. The forest is just beginning work on the plan, starting with public meetings in June, which will likely be followed by site visits to places identified as potential areas for trails and roads, or areas where roads and trails in place might need changing. The forest will then put a draft plan out for public comment.

Troxel said the goal is to have the plan finished in 2016. She hopes user groups will collaborate on access and offer compromises to help move the process along.

The public meetings will explain the travel plan process and provide an opportunity for public comment and suggestions.

“Now is the time to make your voice heard and share what you want on your forest,” Troxel said.

Public meetings will be held at the following times and locations:

  • June 10, Monarch Hall at the Pronghorn Lodge, 150 East Main St., Lander, 6–8 p.m.
  • June 11, Headwaters Art and Convention Center, 20 Stalnaker St., Dubois, 6–8 p.m.
  • June 16, Cody Club Room, 1240 Beck Ave., Cody, 6–8 p.m.

Kelsey Dayton is a freelancer and the editor of Outdoors Unlimited, the magazine of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. She has worked as a reporter for the Gillette News-Record, Jackson Hole News&Guide...

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