Please Comment on the National Forest Use Plan by March 11th
Over 30 bicyclists met on Tuesday night to learn more about the HLCNF Forest Planning process and how we bicyclists can have the most effective input to the process.
Dave Cunningham, the HLCNF Public Information Officer, presented an overview of the process and gave suggestions how bicyclists could prepare comments that are most effective. Russ Ehnes
, a national policy adviser on trails in the National Forests, also shared invaluable wisdom about how to best influence the process. Members of the Montana Bicycle Guild also joined us since the Helena and Lewis & Clark National Forests are now combined (HLCNF).
The meeting focused on how bicyclists can effectively comment to the USFS for continued use of the trails we enjoy. Discussions and guidance were centered around the USFS document provided by Dave, copy here. The HLCNF website focused on the Forest Revision is here
A key take away I got from the meeting was that we should focus on keeping access to the trails we use that are not currently open to motorized users. Motorized established use of legal USFS trails effectively restricts the USFS from including them as Recommended Wilderness Areas (RWA). Similarly, established use as a bicycle trail effectively keeps the USFS from including them in a RWA because of rule 74.1.4 in the
FSH Land Management Planning Handbook since bicycling is currently not a compatible use. Bicyclists don’t want RWA’s on our trails because the USFS routinely kicks bikes out of RWA’s in Montana, even if they never become Wilderness Areas.
When we comment on the Forest Use Plan, we should focus on documenting our use of trails in the national forests that are currently “quiet” trails. In the Little Belts, the quiet trails shown in brown on this Little Belts Record of Decision Map could be subject to RWA if we don’t document our use of them. For example, I regularly bicycle FS trail 322 from Belt Park Road to access Tillinghast Creek (good fly fishing) and some times continue on FS trail 336 to access the Pilgrim Creek Trail 304. (Check to see if the trees have been cleared before you try trail 336).
If we can document our use of the trails then statements like the following quote from Forest Supervisor Spike Thompson in the 2007 Record of Decision for the Rocky Mountain Front will be a thing of the past. “My decision prohibits the use of bicycles on all 100 miles of trail within these recommended wilderness areas. I took this action because the areas wilderness values would best be protected by not allowing incompatible uses to become established, and there is no discernible use of the areas by bicyclists at present.”
More information to follow in a subsequent post regarding the current study the USFS is required to complete to help improve “non-motorized uses including mountain bike riding” in the Rocky Mountain Front.