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Speak up Today for Trails in Kootenai National Forest!

The Kootenai National Forest Travel Management Plan Could BAN Mountain Bikes—we need your ACTION! Comments are due February 14!

Background

Tucked up against the Canadian border, the Ten Lakes Region is becoming a rarity in Montana. A pristine slice of alpine terrain with clear lakes, Big Sky views, solitude, grizzlies and–for the moment–trails that mountain bikes are allowed to ride. That last bit is at risk and we need your help. The Kootenai National Forest released a draft travel plan for the area that calls for closing mountain bike trails, leaving only 17 miles of the current 84 miles open to bikes and precluding any loop options.

 

What to DO

Given this lack of analysis, we recommend that the Forest Service make a final decision that:

  • Chooses Alternative 1. This continues the status quo when it comes mountain bike management.
  • Recognizes that mountain biking, primitive recreation, and wilderness character are all compatible.
  • Acknowledges the lack of impact by bikes on the ecology of the region.
  • Uses the “minimum tool rule” prioritizing education and engagement over trail closures.
  • Performs a trail level study of actual impacts and recreational use to enable nuanced proactive management of the area.
  • Maintains access to:
    • Trail 87 Therriault Pass
    • Trail 339 The Highline Trail
    • Trail 335 Mt. Gibraltar and Gibraltar Ridge (all of it)
    • Trail 84 Wolverine Lakes
    • Trail 83 Bluebird/Paradise Lakes Basin
    • Trail 82
    • Trail 88 St. Clair
    • Trail 308 Stahl Creek

 

How to Engage Successfully

Comments need to submitted by February 14.

Send your comments to: comments-northern-kootenai-fortine [at] fs [dot] fed [dot] us

Be sure to include “Ten Lakes Travel Management” in the subject line of your email.

Comments should be substantive and specific to the proposed activities and area being analyzed. They should include:
1) name, address, e-mail address, telephone number, and organization represented, if any;
2) title of the document for which the comments are being submitted (Ten Lakes Travel Management);
3) specific facts and supporting reasons for the Responsible Official to consider (your personal opinion and experiences); and
4) proper email signature.

 

Talking points in your comments could include:

  • We support mountain bike access to the Ten Lakes area. The trails in Ten Lakes are well suited to mountain bikes, and there is no adequate replacement for the access that would be lost if bikes are banned from this area.
  • There is no evidence that mountain bikes degrade the wilderness character in the Ten Lakes area. The environmental review conducted by the forest service is lacking facts and evidence to support its conclusions. Bike access shouldn’t be restricted absent a finding of negative impacts that is based on actual data and science.
  • Even if some negative impacts associated the mountain bike use are found, the “minimum tool rule” should be applied. In other words, banning bikes should be the last resort. Any impacts from bikes should be mitigated via lesser restrictions whenever possible.
  • We support the “no action alternative” in the environmental study. In other words, mountain bike access should remain unrestricted, as it has been since the designation of the Ten Lakes Wilderness Study Area in 1977.

 

If you’re interested in reading more about travel planning in the Ten Lakes area, you can see the documentation from the Forest Service here.

Ten Lakes has long been recognized for its scenic beauty and opportunities for quiet recreation, being first set aside as the Ten Lakes Scenic Area in 1964. In 1977, a larger area was designated as a Wilderness Study Area.  Since then mountain bikers who like their trails primitive and challenging have made forays into the area in search of primitive adventure, with occasional overnight visits to one of the decommissioned fire lookouts dotting the area.

As Aaron Teasdale reported in “Sierra” magazine a few years ago during one of those visits to the lookouts and their views of the Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park, “a rugged and little-traveled tangle of peaks and alpine lakes hard against the British Columbia border. Riding here is like time-traveling back to when forests weren't crossed with roads and getting to lookouts required long hikes on rough trails.”

Unfortunately the Forest Service believes that their mandate to maintain the area’s wilderness character means effectively banning bikes from the Ten Lakes area. But in arriving at this conclusion, the Forest Service didn’t conduct any studies or analysis of mountain bike use in the area. Their travel proposal is based on a vague notion of what should be allowed, without any actual determination of impacts. 

Check out the Flathead Fat Tires for more information.

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