|January 3, 2013
Illegal snowmobiling causes trouble on the reservation
FLATHEAD RESERVATION — “The most popular spot to snowmobile on the Reservation is the Boulder area. The Boulder drainage also has a parking and unloading area to stage for a day of snowmobiling,” said Tom McDonald, Division of Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation.
According to McDonald, most of the Tribal land base is closed to snowmobiling in order to reduce environmental and human conflicts and for safety precautions, especially in areas of high avalanche danger.
“Most people adhere to the regulations, but we do get riders causing problems every year,” said McDonald.
On the Flathead Indian Reservation, Tribal land is private land. What may be true on federal or state owned land may be different on Tribal land. For example, non-tribal snowmobilers who ride on Tribal land can only use snowmobiles in designated areas within the Reservation and they must possess a valid Tribal recreation permit.
“The biggest problem with snowmobiles on the Reservation is snowmobilers go where they are not allowed,” said Les Bigcrane, Manager of Tribal Wildland Recreation Program. “In the past, snowmobilers have illegally trespassed in the Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness, a sensitive area for natural and cultural resources and an extremely dangerous avalanche area. We have also seen a recent increase in illegal snowmobiling in the Arlee area.”
“The Hellroaring drainage is not a legal snowmobiling area. We also have problems in this area with snowmobilers illegally trespassing into and highmarking in both the Tribal and Federal Wildlerness areas.
“Snowmobile staging areas are patrolled and citations have recently been written for trespassing in the Hellroaring area by Tribal Conservation Officers and state and federal law enforcement.” said Bigcrane.
Janene Lichtenberg, Tribal Wildlife Biologist, says “Snowmobiles can harm wildlife by causing stress and displacement during the winter month when animals are already struggling to stay warm and find enough food. Snowmobiles can also compact the snow which can crush or suffocate animals that live and travel under the snow surface, damage plants, and increase soil erosion.”
Lichtenberg reminds snowmobilers that animals are especially vulnerable during the winter and they should avoid approaching wildlife while recreating in areas open to snowmobiling.
Chief of Tribal Conservation Officers, Pablo Espinoza said, “It is illegal to use snowmobiles for the purpose of photographing, pursuing, or harassing wildlife and violators will be cited.”
Fishing, Hunting and Recreation Regulations provide information on legally operating a snowmobile on Tribal lands. The 2012-2013 Regulations are available at the Natural Resources Department office in Polson.
For more information on avalanche safety go to www.avalanche.org
For more information on snowmobiling on the Reservation, contact Germaine White, Tribal Information and Education Specialist or Les Bigcrane, Wildland Recreation Program at 675-2700.