By June Bonasera, county10.com
(Dubois, Wyo.) – Well over 250 people from Dubois, Riverton, Lander, as well as several out of state residents attended a public meeting Wednesday evening hosted by Shoshone National Forest representatives at the Dubois High School Auditorium. The purpose of the meeting as stated in meeting announcements and press releases from the US Forest Service was to discuss winter recreation in the Two Ocean Mountain area.
Shoshone National Forest official Rick Metzger began the evening with a presentation and overview of the approximately 300 acre area under discussion and evaluation in the forest plan revision. He stated, “We are not here tonight to make a decision but to hear opinion [from the public] and for information gathering”. Metzger explained that the Two Ocean Mountain area was a special winter use area identified in the planning process for the forest plan revision which began in 2009. He also noted that the Togwottee Pass Back County Ski Group submitted a proposal at that time recommending changing the form of winter recreation use from motorized to non-motorized in that area.
Shoshone National Forest supervisor Joe Alexander then opened the meeting up for questions from the audience after explaining that he and other forest officials performed a field visit that morning to make sure they fully understood the views, quality of forest and wildlife and recreational value of the area under discussion. He reported that approximately 22,000 form letters were received which were considered in the public comment period for the forest plan revision and of those approximately 1,200 were what he called “substantive letters” or letters with comments written by people who had firsthand recreational experience in the area under consideration.
It appeared that the majority of the audience members were present to express their views and opinion to keep the use of motorized vehicles and specifically snowmobiles as an allowed use in the plan revision. Numerous comments were made by snowmobile enthusiasts, Dubois business owners, snowmobile club representatives, and winter forest recreational users in support of their sport and the positive economic impact of snowmobile use for the Dubois economy.
Alexander stated that the recommendation by the Forest Service for the Two Ocean Mountain area is to not make any changes to the allowed winter recreational uses or what was called “Alternative B” in the draft revision plan. That statement was met with applause after some additional comments and debate.
The audience was also invited to create lists of “What is working” and “What isn’t working” presently in the forest and the Two Ocean Mountain area. Items identified as working included ease of access, the current USFS multi-use plan, parking, maps and economic benefits. Items identified as not working included the need to post signs about trail use safety, unskilled snowmobilers and skiers and access to wilderness areas for skiers.