Suing for quiet recreation in the forest
A man who’s been dogging the U.S. Forest Service to make some parts of the Huron Manistee Forest off limits to gun hunters and snowmobilers won his case in federal court this fall.
As Bob Allen reports, the Court says forest managers have to consider setting aside roughly 70,000 acres for quiet uses such as hiking, bird watching and cross country skiing.
Kurt Meister sued the Forest Service as one citizen, and it's unusual to get as far as he has with his legal challenge. He says:
“This case isn’t about hunting. It’s not about gun hunting. It’s not about stopping gun hunting. It’s simply saying it shouldn’t be everywhere. And if you make it everywhere, you’re affecting other people’s rights.”
The Forest Service points out they have to manage forests for multiple uses, and try to balance those uses with a minimum amount of conflict. Jeff Pullen is a biologist in charge of writing the plan for the Huron Manistee.
“Really, if you look at the 2,000 or so comments we got on the plan, we had one person asking for this. And we felt, from an agency perspective, it didn’t seem reasonable to develop a separate alternative that looked at this issue that one person was raising.”
What Kurt Meister is asking the court to do is set aside areas designated as non-motorized for quiet recreation. Those are places where, on paper, the forest plan says a person can expect to be isolated from the sights and sounds of other humans.
But on the ground, Meister says, what happens is that snowmobile trails and cross country ski trails run side by side.