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Old 02-23-2012, 10:48 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Blacktail Island Unit NEPA - comments needed

Friends,

My "neighborhood" wheelin' area - the Blacktail/Wild Bill OHV trail system is out for NEPA comment right now. I would really appreciate some comments!!

Background:
  • Original trail system was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1973!
  • This is the only place in the entire Flathead National Forest where roads are actually being OPENED. This project in question is our vehicle to open them!!!
  • Recognized by BFGoodrich as a Top Trail in 2005
  • Site of the 2011 Divide Ride
  • Over $40,000 in private money has gone into this project for weed control, construction of challenge features, trailhead signage, and obliteration of access to sensitive riparian areas.

There are two Action Alternatives. Both contain designation for 11+ miles of non-motorized trails:

Alternative B
designates the Stoner Creek ATV trails for an add of 14.38 miles, and adding 11.95 miles on upper Wild Bill Mountain for fullsize use. Sounds the "Foys to Blacktail" non-motorized trail people are concerned about conflict with us where the trails cross their trail in one location, and where motorized trails would cross the "Lakeside to Blacktail" in 2 locations.

Comments: We don't have a lot of knowledge about the Wild Bill Mountain terrain, as it's currently closed. I like the idea of an ATV trail. We can't fight that fight for the ATV people on our own, but it's worth us supporting.

Alt. B Map

The Stoner Creek Loop is to the right
The Wild Bill Mountain segments are to the far left.


Alternative C (USFS Preferred) designates 12.63 miles of the Kerr Mountain (Blacktail Nordic Trails) system for April 1-November 30 wheeled motorized use, but it remains closed to us in the winter for the XC ski trails. It designates 8.31 miles over in Truman Creek to join and loop with the existing Dayton/Wild Bill trail segments.

Comments: The trails I explored in Truman Creek were a little boring, but could be improved with an excavator.
We lose some snow wheelin' opportunities if those trails are closed to us in the winter months, but how many people run that high elevation (like Eagle Junction to Blacktail) in the deep of winter?

Alt. C Map
The Kerr Mtn/XC ski trails (seasonal shared use) are to the south/lower part of themap
The Truman Cr. trails are in the center of the map--between the existing trail system (red upside-down T shape) and the Ski area (blue)


Comments are due on March 23, 2012.
I need to review this and have some local discussions, and I'll post up comments--I'd really appreciate comments from people all over the country on this project.

We (locals) need to decide if we want support for Alt. B or Alt. C. Alt. B has the potential for some motorized/non-motorized user conflict.

Does anyone have any data from your areas where there are separate but nearby motorized/non-motorized trail systems? Are they OK?

thanks!
Shawn
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Old 02-23-2012, 11:29 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MT4Runner View Post

We (locals) need to decide if we want support for Alt. B or Alt. C. Alt. B has the potential for some motorized/non-motorized user conflict.

Does anyone have any data from your areas where there are separate but nearby motorized/non-motorized trail systems? Are they OK?

thanks!
Shawn
Well from past experience, the Forest Service is going to run from anything with "Potential" conflict. A trail in the Swan, (north lost or south lost, something like that) was closed to motorized use based on the potential of conflict. Yet they have not one recorded complaint or altercation.
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Old 02-23-2012, 12:23 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by 2manyprojects View Post
Well from past experience, the Forest Service is going to run from anything with "Potential" conflict. A trail in the Swan, (north lost or south lost, something like that) was closed to motorized use based on the potential of conflict. Yet they have not one recorded complaint or altercation.
Agreed. This is an opportunity to open closed roads. No point in fighting a fight we can't win, when we can fight a fight we will win.

I'm wondering about combining parts of B and C--a combined Alternative with motorized use of both the Wild Bill Peak (shown in Alt B) and Truman Creek trails (shown in Alt. C), and have a call in to Andrew @ Swan Lake RD to find out the possibility. It's less ground for us to explore in a day, but also a lot easier to do work on different trail segments on a weekend--and all very accessible from the gravel pit campsite.
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Old 02-23-2012, 02:43 PM   #4 (permalink)
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One note for intersecting motorized and nonmotorized trails, emergency access. Had a friend die up there on a motorcycle, in that instance quicker access didn't sound like it would have helped, but it might in the future?
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Old 02-23-2012, 03:12 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Interesting point to note on the comments.
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Old 03-23-2012, 09:06 AM   #6 (permalink)
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BTT. Comments due today.
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Old 03-23-2012, 10:55 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Shawn Baker
2268 Mission Trail Rd
Kalispell, MT 59901

Andrew Johnson
200 Ranger Station Road
Bigfork, MT 59911
andrewjohnson@fs.fed.us


March 23, 2012


Re: Island Unit Trail System Additions Project #22659


Dear Andrew,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this project, and thank you as well for your efforts over the past several years to bring this project to fruition. My family and I sincerely appreciate the opportunities for multiple-use recreation provided in the Swan Lake Ranger District while most of the other Districts on the Flathead National Forest have focused on road closures.

The Blacktail-Wild Bill trail system has provided numerous opportunities for me to introduce my young daughters to the outdoors. When they were much younger, hiking was difficult for their little legs, and we spent many weekends exploring the trail and the roads in the Island Unit. Now that they’re older and learning how to drive soon, the Trail will provide me with an opportunity to teach them to drive (slowly!) in a controlled environment, away from fast-moving vehicular traffic. Operating a motor vehicle requires responsibility and good trail ethics. Both of which are not only good for adult operators to embrace, but also are great things to teach our children at a young age—and the lessons expand into many other aspects of their lives.

I have examined all the Alternatives presented at this stage in the project. I much prefer Alternative B, yet I understand the compromises required for the USFS to present Alternative C as the preferred alternative.

A few key points must be noted and carried into future projects both on the Swan Lake Ranger District and across the Flathead National Forest:


Motorized use:
The public has a great need for motorized trails. Per the Purpose and Need, issued Montana OHV permits have increased 3,600% from 1995 to 2007.

Under existing conditions in the Flathead National Forest, there are considerably more non-motorized trail opportunities than motorized trail opportunities. The public needs more motorized trail opportunities and not less.


Equitable use:
As noted in Existing Condition in the Purpose and Need chapter of the project document, only 13 miles of ATV (vehicles under 50” in width) exist in the ENTIRE FLATHEAD NATIONAL FOREST. The exclusion of the Upper Stoner Creek Trails from the preferred Alternative C means that there are 14,300% non-motorized trails than ATV trails. I request that the Flathead National Forest plan additional ATV (under 50”) trails in our Forest if Alternative C is selected and the Upper Stoner Creek trails are not opened.

I respectfully request that a check-in kiosk be installed at the base of the Lakeside to Blacktail trail. If hiker visits do not exceed OHV visits on the Blacktail-Wild Bill Trail, the designation of the Stoner Creek ATV trails should be revisited.

The Flathead National Forest currently has 1,867 miles of single-track, non-motorized trails and 116 miles of trails open to motor vehicle use. This is a 1,600% disparity. The non-motorized trails proposed in both Alternative B and Alternative C both include 11.46 miles of new construction and designation. Preferred Alternative C only proposes 2.98 miles of new construction. If non-motorized trail proponents feel that quiet recreation should be minimally invasive to the Forest Environment, shouldn’t their trails utilize even fewer miles of new trail prism construction than for motorized trails?


Quiet Recreation:
Several comments in the previous rounds of discussion have cited the need for quiet recreation. One commenter stated that the addition of roads/trails would be, “destructive to the Forest and harmful to wildlife, as well as in conflict with those of us who seek quiet and slow exploration of our public lands.”

For these reasons, any trails built for non-motorized recreation should be constructed entirely by hand, with no use of chainsaws, generators, power compactors, vehicles to haul materials and supplies, or even cordless drills.

Emergency access to the Foys to Blacktail and Lakeside to Blacktail trails must be designated for foot, horse, or bicycle access only, as helicopters or all-terrain vehicles would be invasive to those who wish to conserve peace and quiet. Emergency motorized vehicular access to an accident site should be ticketed and fined similarly to any other motorized vehicular access on the site, up to and including possible confiscation of the vehicle.

If a front-country wilderness-like setting is desired by “quiet trail” proponents, then wilderness ethics must be observed, obeyed, and enforced at all times on those trails.


Economics
The Blacktail-Wild Bill trail system has drawn visitors from across Montana—Polson, Missoula, Helena, Butte, Bozeman, Billings, and Great Falls; and several neighboring states including Idaho, Washington, South Dakota, and California. People who bring their OHV’s to visit these trail systems fuel up in local convenience stores, purchase groceries locally, dine in local restaurants, and stay in local motels.

Proponents of quiet trails are looking for a hiking route out their back door, and are generally local residents. Quiet trail visitors from outside the Flathead Valley generally tend to visit Glacier National Park or the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and contribute little to the Somers-Lakeside or Kila economies.

In terms of economics, quiet trail visitors’ dollars are already in the local economy. OHV trail visitors bring money into the local economy.


Stewardship
With the exclusion of the trails in the Patrick Creek area from this project and from the Motor Vehicle Use Map, I will no longer visit this area. Nor would, I believe, the Big Sky 4-Wheelers club. For the past five years, I have picked up an immense amount of trash at the intersection of 2960 and Patrick Creek Road (2962), and literally tons of trash at the intersection of 2941 and 2962. I would hope that the local residents who were opposed to OHV use in this area will take on that project and clean up after the irresponsible forest users like I used to.

Wildlife
The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has noted a need for elk security and has requested that the Wild Bill Mountain trails not be included in the final Alternative. I have seen several moose, many deer, and a few wolves, but never any elk. If FWP is concerned about wildlife, they should call “elk habitat” what it truly has become: “wolf forage”.

Summary:
I believe the Blacktail-Wild Bill Trail project has been the best full-size OHV opportunity in the state (and possibly the country!) in recent years, and the Skyliners, Big Sky 4-Wheelers, and Montana 4x4 Association have really made the most of this opportunity and shown the FS that we are very responsible stewards of our public lands. I am understandably disappointed with some of the compromises made in the final alternatives presented, but I am also very pleased with the continuing OHV opportunities that are in the preferred Alternative going forward.


I reluctantly support Alternative C.

Best regards,

Shawn Baker
Kalispell, MT
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Old 03-23-2012, 11:43 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Jacquelyne Theisen

11:40 AM (1 minute ago)

to andrewjohnson
Andrew Johnson
200 Ranger Station Road
Bigfork, MT 59911
andrewjohnson@fs.fed.us

Hello Andrew,

"I'm eager to visit the Blacktail/Wild Bill OHV trail in the near future.

It is unfortunate that OHV recreation opportunities in the Wild Bill Mountain area and Stoner Creek ATV trail were not put in the preferred alternative due to "quiet recreation" users' requests, especially when there area already 1,867 miles of non-motorized recreation in the Flathead NF. This seems to me to be unbalanced, and preferential treatment of one user group over another.

However we do appreciate your including the additions to the Blacktail/Wild Bill trail system that are in the preferred alternative".

All the best,

Jacquelyne Bebe Theisen


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Old 05-19-2012, 12:52 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I'm sorry I just saw this, Shawn. Please keep me posted with any news on how it turns out and if I can help.
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