MOOSE PASS - New federal rules for the Chugach National Forest for the first time have silenced the sound of snowmachines in the Moose Pass area.
Kevin and Erin Knotek are one of several families formally protesting the decision. Their home near Tern Lake is surrounded for miles by the Chugach National Forest. A valley full of spruce trees and hardwoods yawns in either direction, but new federal rules say they can't ride their snowmachines anywhere near home.
The rule is one small piece of the rules found within the recently enacted Chugach National Forest management plan.
The new plan scales back motorized access, including by snowmachines, to about 82 percent of the forest.
But much of the Moose Pass area has been set aside for skiing and other muscle-powered recreation. That has frustrated the community of roughly 200 people. Residents say the decision mostly hurts families with small children and the elderly because those groups have fewer options for enjoying the outdoors.
Riding into the backcountry or from subdivision to subdivision along the road system has long been one of the little perks of living here, many Moose Pass residents say.
"This has completely changed the lifestyle of this community," said Jeanne Follett.
"I'm 63 years old," Follett said. "I can't run dogs anymore. I don't go to Alyeska (ski resort) anymore. My cross-country skiing is pretty well limited to my backyard, down to Trail Lake, and I like to use a snowmachine to pack a trail down there."
But Forest Service officials say change is necessary.
The region has become a playground for enthusiasts driving higher-powered machines capable of scaling ridge tops and covering vast distances. Those riders can disturb wildlife, as well as people trying to find a quiet spot in the wilderness, said Mike Kania, Seward District ranger.
"Public lands are being discovered by everyone. They're much in demand. It's unrealistic to think you can reserve an area primarily for your own local use only," Kania said.
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