Ninth Circuit Affirms Kapka Sno-Park Decision

Ninth Circuit Affirms Kapka Sno-Park Decision – Project Will Continue in Use for 2017-2018

Peggy Spieger 888-567-7669
Paul Turcke 208-331-1800

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently issued a decision upholding the legality of the Kapka Sno-Park approved by the Deschutes National Forest near Bend, Oregon. The unanimous opinion was authored by Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen. The case was argued to the Ninth Circuit on October 5, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. The Circuit Court’s decision affirms the earlier decision by U.S. Magistrate Thomas Coffin dated March 14, 2014.

“We are thrilled and encouraged by this outcome,” said Peggy Spieger, Executive Director of the Oregon State Snowmobile Association (OSSA). “Administrative appeals and litigation are laborious and expensive, and our opponents are skillful at creating or exploiting any wrinkle in the process,” Spieger observed. OSSA obtained party status as an intervenor in the lawsuit, along with the American Council of Snowmobile Associations, Ken Roadman, and Elk Lake Resort. The intervenors were represented by Paul Turcke of Boise, Idaho.

Kapka is a parking facility and staging area, which only provides access to existing trails and areas previously designated for snowmobile and other winter recreation uses. The nearby Tumalo Mountain area is partially closed to snowmobiling and designated exclusively for nonmotorized access as is the Three Sisters Wilderness. Kapka is the eighth sno-park along the Cascade Lakes Highway, which the Forest Service first began to analyze in 1996. Since then, the population of Bend has more than doubled.

The plaintiffs in the underlying lawsuit, Wild Wilderness, the Bend Backcountry Alliance and the Winter Wildlands Alliance, claimed the Forest Service violated the Deschutes Forest Plan and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and that self-proclaimed “user conflict” felt by some nonmotorized recreationists should have prevented approval of the Kapka project. The Court rejected these arguments, and closed by mentioning but declining to answer “the question of whether on-snow user conflicts are outside the scope of the agency’s required NEPA analysis entirely because they are ‘citizens’ subjective experiences.’”A copy of the Court’s decision can be viewed HERE.