A series of recent Maine snowmobile accidents serve as a reminder of how dangerous the motorized vehicles can be – a point well taken by the U.S. Forest Service, which recently issued new policy mandating park managers limit where snowmobiles can travel on federal land.
Snowmobiling is permitted in the Park Loop Road system – including up Cadillac Mountain – in Acadia National Park. The new federal rules take effect Feb. 27, and are applicable to all national forests in the country.The move is specifically designed to limit injurious contact between snowmobilers and skiers in national parks. Another goal is to stop the vehicles from tearing up remote areas of pristine powder that were once only accessible by skiers.
In 2013, a federal court in Idaho ruled the Forest Service was wrong to exempt snowmobiles from a plan restricting areas in which wheeled vehicles could travel on certain designated routes. The agency estimates some 4 million people use snowmobiles in national forests, and newer technology has made the vehicles lighter and more powerful – meaning they can reach areas previously inaccessible.