Montana: Sled grooming to end in West Pioneers

Action was meant to protect wolverine and the wilderness quality of this wilderness study area-

The Forest Service has settled a lawsuit by Wildlands CPR of Missoula and Friends of the Bitterroot regarding the terms of the Montana Wilderness Study area act of 1977 regarding allowed uses of one of the study areas in the Act. Snowmobile grooming will end. Snowmobiles are still permitted.

Story in the Montana Standard. Sled grooming to end in West Pioneers. By Nick Gevock.


  1. Pronghorn Avatar

    from the article:
    U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., issued a press release Wednesday stating that his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act would designate most of the area a recreation area that would allow grooming.

    “There is plenty of room for everyone in our forests, which is why I’m trying to settle the longstanding dispute over wilderness study areas,” he said. “The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act would specifically turn the West Pioneers into a 130,000-acre recreation area which would be open to groomed snowmobile trails.” end of article quote

    To help defeat S.1470, Tester’s misguided public lands bill (it scraps, entirely, seven WSAs without citizen input), visit and get your own comments on the record by the end of the year.

    Merry Christmas, everyone!

  2. kt Avatar

    … peace and tranquility … for wolverines. some safety from the human hounds of winter …

  3. gline Avatar

    I’ve signed petition against this bill Pronghorn…thanks for the easy links.

  4. Mike Avatar

    The release of WSA’s in this bill is the deal killer for me.

  5. Nathan Hobbs Avatar
    Nathan Hobbs

    Honestly I do not see the victory in this,
    You have shut groomers down but the area is still open to snow machine traffic

    So by shutting down the groomers you have made the trail nearly impossible to many of the clean(er) quiet(er) touring style machines similar to what is allowed in Yellowstone

    What you have done is changed this into a exclusive back country playground for the hard core high marking crowd. The path where the groomer went will now be a deeply rutted bumpy path as snowmobiles travel the route that they are still legally entitled to seeking areas to travel and hills to climb.

    Sure life is more difficult now for those who want to take a motorized vehicle, and maybe a few less machines will go back there, but it seems like a slap on the wrists of a lawsuit to argue the technicality of a groomer rather than to go for the jugular and get the snowmobiles off of Wilderness lands.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I’m not sure whether the groups were trying to exclude snowmobiles and got a half victory or what their intent was, except to uphold the integrity of the MT Wilderness Study Act of 1977.

    Most folks are not aware of that act, but a lot of those from back in the day are, and they don’t like the way the Forest Service has often implemented the Act.

    A number of fine areas were included in that bill, and they were to be managed to protect their wilderness qualities until Congress acted on the areas one way or the other.

    The Forest Service has generally interpreted this pretty loosely, allowing a host of non-conforming uses with the blank statement that the tracks would fade quickly if Congress designated them (the areas in the bill) as Wilderness.

    Most problematic have been what I might call “social marks” on the areas — the introduction of a non-conforming use that builds a constituency for it to continue. I suppose the settlement was that well publicized, groomed trails, advertised in brochures and on the web, tended to do this more than the more difficult scattered snowmobile use.

    There are few, if any, bowls or steep unforested slopes in the West Pioneer Mtns. of Montana (so far as I know)

  7. kt Avatar

    Well this is the same attitude the illustrious BLM has had in its supposed modern-day OHV planning in many areas. Even areas with new Travel Plans. It declares lands closed to crosscountry travel – except for snow mobiles. Ahhh .. snow machines …

  8. Jeff Avatar

    A christmas gift indeed. This goes a long way in setting a legal precedent towards stopping all grooming in wilderness areas.

    Of course this area isn’t a wilderness, only a study area under consideration but an actual wilderness is held to a much higher standard.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan