portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article

forest defense

Oppose the "Travel Plan" that would open up Montana wildlands to ORVs for 15 yrs

Montana ecosytems under siege, reviving a travel plan declared illegal over a decade ago and encourages ORV use in the wilds of the Rockies. "Defying the long tradition of a wild Front, the Forest Service's proposed Travel Plan would throw open over three-quarters of the Rocky Mountain Front to dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and snowmobiles, eroding the natural peace and quiet
of this wellspring of beauty and life. The proposal would determine what uses to allow on trails, roads, and entire landscapes for the next 15 years. "

For generations, Montanans have been good
stewards of the Rocky
Mountain Front -- one of the most spectacular
places in Montana and
America. A recently proposed Forest Service
Travel Plan would
squander that long tradition of stewardship by
legitimizing the use
of off-road vehicles on hundreds of miles of
pristine trails.

Please, write a letter to the Lewis and Clark
National Forest and
tell them to START OVER with a new Travel Plan
that respects the
land, wildlife, and traditions of the Rocky
Mountain Front. Comments
should be postmarked no later than December 13 --
please write today!
Below you will find all the information needed to
write a powerful


Montana's Rocky Mountain Front is a 100-mile long
stretch of wildlife
habitat made up of craggy peaks, lush valleys,
forested foothills,
and unspoiled rivers. The Front ushers down to
meet head on with the
Great Plains. This breathtaking geography runs
south from Glacier
National Park and along the easternmost side of
the Bob Marshall
Wilderness. Horseback riders, hunters, hikers,
and outfitters have
shared trails, enjoying centuries-old traditional
uses. The Front is
one of the few places in the West that remains as
it was when
Meriwether Lewis gazed upon it nearly 200 years


The Front:

* is home to the largest herds of big game
animals outside of Yellowstone
harbors the healthiest grizzly population in the
lower 48 states and
is the only place south of Canada where grizzlies
still freely
venture onto the open prairies

* is THE winter and spring range for the great
wildlife herds of the
Bob Marshall Wilderness -- elk, mule deer,
bighorn sheep, and
mountain goats. What hurts the Front, hurts the

* is rated in the "top 1% of wildlife habitat in
the nation,"
according to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks
Superintendent Mike


Defying the long tradition of a wild Front, the
Forest Service's
proposed Travel Plan would throw open over
three-quarters -- nearly
80 percent! -- of the Rocky Mountain Front to
dirt bikes, all-terrain
vehicles (ATVs), and snowmobiles, eroding the
natural peace and quiet
of this wellspring of beauty and life. The
proposal would determine
what uses to allow on trails, roads, and entire
landscapes for the
next 15 years. In fact, instead of writing a new
plan from the outset, the Lewis and Clark
National Forest planners
have dusted off an old plan that the Associated
Deputy Chief of the
Forest Service deemed illegal in 1989.

In the proposed plan, most of the Front's
pristine trails would be
arbitrarily zoned "motorized." Dirt bike,
all-terrain vehicle, and
snowmobile traffic would traverse the roadless
heart of the Rocky
Mountain Front -- inviting unimagined habitat
devastation and
wildlife displacement. Instead of keeping
vehicles on roads, the plan
would leave only 1 in 4 roadless acres free of
vehicle traffic in one
of Montana's finest places.

Montana's Rocky Mountain Front is NOT the place
for motorized thrill seeking.


The future of the Front and the health and
integrity of the Bob
Marshall Wilderness are at stake. Please write
Forest Supervisor Rick
Prausa at the Lewis and Clark National Forest
TODAY. Ask him to:

* Withdraw the initial plan and START OVER!

* Write a NEW CONSERVATION-BASED travel plan

1) Protects the Rocky Mountain Front's wildlife.
Fragile wildlife
habitat should be kept undisturbed by loud,
noisy, and otherwise
bothersome vehicles all year. Off-road traffic
may cause habitat
disruption, stress, harassment, or displacement
from prime habitats.

2) Preserves traditional uses and manages
traditional trails and all
roadless lands as "primitive, non-motorized"
areas -- absolutely free
from motorized traffic.

3) Maintains equitable access to nature. Maintain
the existing 120
miles of legal public access roads and keep ALL
vehicles on roads --
regardless of type, make, size, speed, power or
cost. This simple
policy provides easy and equitable access to
nature for people of all
ages, abilities, and incomes.

Address your letter to:

Forest Supervisor Rick Prausa and Travel Planning
Lewis and Clark National Forest
P.O. Box 869
Great Falls, Montana 59403
e-mail: mailto: rprausa@fs.fed.us

Comments must by postmarked no later than

For questions or additional information, please

Bob Clark, Conservation Organizer
Sierra Club
mailto: sierrabob@wildrockies.org



The Lewis and Clark National Forest recently
began writing a new
long-term travel plan for the hundred-mile
stretch of Montana's Rocky
Mountain Front just outside the Bob Marshall and
Scapegoat Wilderness
Areas. The latest Forest Service proposal
threatens the quiet future of
the primitive Front by continuing a policy based
on a travel plan
declared illegal by the Regional Forester shortly
after it was written
in 1988.

Now, instead of starting with a blank slate, the
agency has begun the
planning process with a proposed action that for
years to come would
legitimize the motorization of 2/3 to 3/4 of the
Front's traditional
backcountry hiker and horse trails. It would
allow dirtbikes,
all-terrain vehicles, or snowmobiles throughout
most of this special
place. Such a plan would harm the long-term
integrity of superb
wildlife habitat and wildland qualities, and it
would diminish future
opportunities for quiet recreation in the Front.

The agency proposal would legalize off-road
vehicles on most hiking and
horse trails in the Badger-Two Medicine, the
Blackleaf and Dupuyer
Creek, the Teton and Deep Creek. Motorized use
would be authorized on
most trails leading north and south from Sun
River Canyon, and through
Willow Creek Gorge along Fairview to Benchmark.
Motorbikes would roar
in the Crown Mountain backcountry south of Ford
Creek. The plan would
encourage snowmobile use in all of the Falls
Creek drainage south of the
Dearborn and would allow snow machines to buzz
unrestricted even in
Wagner Basin, which provides some of the finest
bighorn sheep range in
North America. For more details, request a copy
of the proposal.

The Forest Service is seeking public input.
Please send inquiries and
comments to:

Rocky Mountain Front Travel Plan
Lewis and Clark National Forest
PO Box 869
Great Falls, MT 59403
Phone 406-791-7700

* We urge the Forest Service to return to square
one and start over
* We suggest the agency begin with an enlightened
travel plan that would
limit motorized use mostly to national forest
system roads that provide
adequate access to the Rocky Mountain Front.
* Traditional hiking and horse trails should
remain nonmotorized.
* The backcountry of the Front is a national
treasure. Let's keep it
wild, and quiet.

Please forward this message to others who love
the Front.

PO Box 763
Choteau, Montana 59422

P.S. Our Friends network has joined the
Coalition to Protect the Rocky
Mountain Front, a broad-based group of
conservation organizations whose
goal is the protection of this special place.
You can see our website
at www.savethefront.net. The Coalition needs
part-time professional
help to deal specifically with threats to the
Front. To contribute
financially, you can make a tax-deductible
donation by writing a check
payable to "Montana Wilderness Association" and
writing in the memo line
"Friends of the Rocky Mountain Front." All money
will be used only on
issues that directly affect the Front. Many

Let's don't let this happen to Montana's Rocky
Mountain Front

(article from Vail, Colorado, news):

October 22, 2002
Off-road vehicles creating illegal roads, trails,
forest officials say

By Cliff Thompson
The Vail Daily

Parts of the backcountry in the White River
National Forest are under
assault this hunting season by machines that have
the ability to go just
about anywhere.

ATVs, or all-terrain vehicles being used to
illegally access roadless
areas of the forest, lie at the heart of a
growing conflict between
wilderness values and mechanized transport.

"They're terrible," says outfitter Dan Harrison,
who operates Challenge
Outfitters in the Piney River drainage, 15 miles
northwest of Vail.

"We had our outfitter campsite at Piney Station
and we had so much
vandalism we had to move base camp onto private

Harrison accesses his camps by horse and promotes
the remoteness of his
camps to his clients, charging them up to $3,000
for a week of elk and
deer hunting on the edge of the Eagles Nest
Wilderness. But ATVs are
spoiling the backcountry experience for his
clients, he says.


"They're using horse trails, and every year they
get farther and farther
down the trail," he says. "It's now a tool for
road-hunting the

Last hunting season, a horse trail broadened by
ATV use was used by a
person driving a full-sized Chevy Blazer.
Harrison says the driver
pulled right up to his supposedly remote

Another outfitter, Dan Eckert of Triple G
Outfitters, also hunts the
Piney River drainage in the Big Park and Lava
Lakes area.

"We had to stop doing drop camps for hunters," he
says. "It's just
getting worse because there's just more of them.
They're not going to
get their elk on an ATV. They're just running off
the game and causing
habitat degradation. Every year they come in a
little farther and
farther. It's just horrible up in there."
Eckert's clients access the
remote area by horseback and expect a remote
hunt, far from the sounds
of mechanized travel, he says. But that's not
what they're experiencing.

"It's not a pleasant experience when ATV rides
right past your tents,"
Eckert says. Not all ATV riders ride off-road,
Eckert and Harrison say.
It's a few who are creating many issues for the


Vehicle use on the 2.4 million-acre White River
National Forest is
restricted to bonafide roads and trails. And the
U.S. Forest Service is
well-aware of the ATV problem, says Holy Cross
District Ranger Cal

"There's absolutely no regard for responsible use
of public lands," he
says. "It's getting worse because of the
increasing motorized
backcountry use."

Wettstein says the off-road vehicle industry
promotes the go-anywhere
ability of the machines, and that's what people
expect to do that once
they clamber aboard.

"It's pretty disconcerting to see blatant
disregard for public lands,"
he said. It boils down to money, he says, or the
lack thereof. "Across
the board, there are inadequate budgets to manage
forest lands," he

Wettstein says it would take three full-time law
enforcement officers in
the field to stem the illegal riding. But
catching people who are riding
illegally off-road falls to Tom Healy, the lone
Forest Service
law-enforcement officer for the 800,000 acres of
the Eagle, Holy Cross
and Dillon districts of the White River National

"It's a difficult mind-set to deal with," Healy
says. "People just think
it's their right to go wherever they want,
wherever the machine can take
them. It's not legal to do that."

One of the worst areas for off-road vehicle abuse
is Red and White
Mountain north of Avon, Healy says. There, it's
not just ATVs, but
motorcycles and four-wheel-drive vehicles cutting
illegal roads and
"They're creating new roads there as fast as we
can close them," he
says. "It's very popular and there's tons of
off-road activity."

Most hunters with ATVs take to the backcountry
during Colorado's
big-game hunting seasons, Healy adds.
"We're seeing more violations in hunting season
than we used to, in part
because we're seeing more people use ATVs instead
of horses," he says.

The progression from trail to ATV trail to road
can be pretty swift.

"We wind up with a road and with impacts that
depend on the steepness
and erosion," Healy says. "Biologists said it is
not a good thing for a
number of species sensitive to amount of

ATV riders who are off-road can be fined $75 for
a first offense, Healy
says. Subsequent infractions can land the
violator before a federal
magistrate facing a $5,000 fine for a blatant


Finding evidence of illegal off-road use is easy;
catching people in the
act is tougher. Since the start of the first
hunting season last
Saturday, he has yet to issue a ticket.

"I've chased a lot of ghosts," Healy said. "I
haven't found anything yet
but tracks."

Colorado Division of Wildlife officers are in the
field, too, and while
they cannot ticket violators, they can stop them
and take down
information Healy can use to send a ticket after
the fact. It's the
speed with which the new roads are appearing that
has raised a number of
red flags for the Forest Service.

"It's kind of exploding," says Healy, who has
been with the Forest
Service in this area for 15 years. "It's caught
us off-guard.'

Wettstein says the problem may stem from the
increased number of hunters
taking to the field.
"As more and more people hunt, they feel the need
to get farther and
farther afield, so they get an ATV," he says.

This year, as many as 400,000 deer and elk
hunters will take to
Colorado's hills, according to state Division of
Wildlife estimates.


A study conducted by Hazen and Sawyer Engineers
and Scientists on the
economic contribution of off-highway vehicle use
for Colorado shows as
many as 32,800 ATVs a year are used in Colorado
by residents and
non-residents. Dirt-bike numbers were estimated
at 23,000, and
four-wheel drive off-road vehicle numbers were
estimated at 64,800.

That volume creates some issues, particularly
with ATVs, which are
smaller, lighter and can go nearly anywhere.

"The new technology and advertising and you see
they're blasting through
stuff," says Wendy Haskins, transportation
planner for the White River
forest. "We don't have places we can handle that
kind of use because of
the environmental impacts."

Haskins said it creates a dilemma for land

"We want to provide different levels of trails so
they can have fun,"
she says. "A lot of hunters would prefer people
stay on roads and trails
so it doesn't spoil the hunt."

Haskins says a number of off-road clubs are
actively helping public
agencies police off-road vehicle use.
"It's a cooperative-educational thing between
government and the
public," she says.

The issue of off-road vehicles is not isolated to
the Whiter River
National Forest, either. It's been a problem
throughout the Rocky
Mountain region, says Glenda Wilson, regional
engineer for the Forest
Service's five-state Rocky Mountain region.

"Off-road vehicle use has been a problem for a
number of years," she
says, adding that knowledge of backcountry
impacts from use has been
lost as the type of visitor to forests changes
from rural resident to
urban resident.

"If you're raised in a city with asphalt and
concrete, you have a
different appreciation of how you treat nature so
it will be the same on
the second visit as it was on the first," she

Successful management of the forest has resulted
from a combination of a
travel management plan, adequate signage and
enforcement, and users who
care enough to encourage responsible use by

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450
< cthompson@vaildaily.com>.

phone: phone: 406-549-1142