A Shoshone National Forest employee surveys snowmobilers enjoying a day out. (Shoshone National Forest)

A plan to govern motorized travel on the Shoshone National Forest falls short of laws protecting a wilderness study area, a conservation group said after reviewing public comments.

The Wyoming Wilderness Association said the proposed travel plan adds significant new motorized routes and trails while ignoring illegal motorized use. The conservation group analyzed hundreds of comments after the national forest made them public last year. The national forest released the comments after requests, including a records request under the Freedom of Information Act from WyoFile.

The national forest proposes to expand ATV routes, allow off-trail snowmobiling across 521,038 acres and make other changes to its travel regulations. Officials, who have studied the issue for seven years, are evaluating whether to adopt the current plan or pursue a more in-depth environmental impact statement. 

Who said what

“The proposal adds four new large motorized loops on the Wind River District, the area of the forest with the most documented enforcement and maintenance issues,” the WWA said in a review of comments. “The new summer motorized trails would bisect Inventoried Roadless Areas, a Wild and Scenic eligible River, and crucial wildlife habitat bordering the Fitzpatrick Wilderness.”

The proposed plan “grossly extends” the snowmobiling season to June 15, the group said, and fails to protect the High Lakes Wilderness Study Area near the Montana border as required by law. The plan was “crafted with the goal of accommodating a minority of motorized interests,” the WWA wrote.

Snowmobile advocates want the wilderness area kept open to snowmobiling and have advocated for motorized access in additional areas.

Why it matters

Adoption of the plan will establish a system of designated roads, trails, and areas for public motorized use, the Shoshone Forest said. The agency undertook the planning effort as motorized travel by ATVs and snowmobiles has increased, in some cases resulting in the creation of unauthorized trails. The environmental analysis was 474 pages long.


After releasing a preliminary environmental analysis in July 2020, the Shoshone Forest received more than 6,000 comments and decided to reevaluate some aspects of its proposal. Among those were reviews of the wilderness study area and the Line Creek Resource Natural Area, including “guiding management direction, prior environmental assessments, and legal precedent.”

What’s next

Shoshone administrators will either adopt the proposed plan or undertake a more detailed examination through an environmental impact statement. The agency has not announced when it might make that decision.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. Here is some public comment….. open up more land and trails to motorized use. It’s public land, for public use. It’s not for a select few. The government shouldn’t discriminate against those who aren’t physically able to hike. Properly manage use but don’t discriminate just because people are different and unique.

    1. Here’s some public comment back.. motorized users don’t respect existing rules, not do they self regulate. Why should they be given more freedom when they can’t respect what they have.
      I think they should be banned from all public lands based on complete disrespect for those public lands to which they currently have access.
      No Respect = Loss of Access, NOT more!

  2. Climate change is having is having a profound impact on the wildlife and landscape in the Shoshone Ntl Forest. The new proposed ATV trails will increase wildlife habitat fragmentation resulting in wildlife population decline. The proposed Warm Springs trail, WR13, involves technical new construction across a steep rock canyon that features unique geological features. It also crosses Warm Springs Creek, an eligible Wild and Scenic River resulting in increased sediment harming the fish population. The Forest Service is having a difficult time enforcing illegal off trail ATV travel. This illegal use will only increase with the proposed ATV trails. What is the cost of widening existing trails and constructing new trails? This money would be better spent on enforcement, improving existing trails and roads.

  3. The Shoshone NF needs to reinitiate its Travel Management plan with in-person meetings. The last round of on-line only was impossible to understand. This Travel management has been ongoing since 2016. They need to reengage the public and wrap it up.

    Just because ATV and snowmobiles have more users doesn’t mean they need more trails. The Shoshone is a unique forest, designated as a backcountry forest for horses and foot travel. It borders Yellowstone Park with the full suite of wildlife. Impacts of these noisy vehicles are great on wildlife. The Shoshone needs to remember where their responsibility lies, which is as a supporting forest for the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

  4. It seems the only safe haven for wildlife is increasingly on private land. The public seems to favor open access to federal lands for recreational purposes; and, the availability of off highway toys ( including mountain bikes ) has resulted in penetration of formally secure wildlife habitat. Wilderness areas are becoming more and more important secure habitat for stressed wildlife. Another case of loving the federal lands to death.

  5. The major purpose (for MOST PEOPLE) of national forests is to allow us to escape the noise and traffic we experience in our daily lives and also allow other species respite from human activities. Do a scientific survey of what most Wyoming residents want–don’t rely on pressure from ATV and snowmobile groups to dominate decisions that should be made for the majority of people–not these interest groups.

  6. ATVs should be banned. They are a calamity for the forest and all that live there!!! Only a ninny would think otherwise.