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Old 12-22-2009, 07:36 AM   #1 (permalink)
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FS seeks comment on area containing Blacktail-Wild Bill OHV trail

Edit: Please comment on our trail project. Rather than fighting a closure, we actually have the opportunity to add legal trail miles!!

The Blacktail-Wild Bill National Recreation Trail is a part of the "Blacktail Island Unit" of the Swan Lake Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest, and was recognized as a BFG Outstanding Trail in 2008.

The original NRT was proposed by members of the Skyliners 4x4 club back in the 1970's, and saw relatively minor use until the past 5 years. The Swan Lake RD contacted the current Skyliners members due to concerns about woodcutters using the road to fell marketable timber for firewood, and asked if some obstacles/erosion control berms could be created.


The District is currently undertaking Travel Management, and is seeking public input on the trail system on the Blacktail Island Unit.

http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/flathead/nep...ls_Scoping.pdf

Quote:
Public Comment Requested for Proposal to Improve Motorized and
Non-Motorized Trail Opportunities on Island Unit of Swan Lake Ranger District


The Swan Lake Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest is seeking public comment regarding some improved motorized and non-motorized trail recreation opportunities on National Forest System lands south and west of Kalispell surrounding Blacktail Mountain. This area of National Forest System lands is generally referred to as the Island Unit of the Swan Lake Ranger District.

The proposal, Island Unit Trail System Additions Project, is intended to develop a system of trails in the Island Unit for both motorized and non-motorized uses, consistent with environmental conditions and established agency standards for such trails.

Swan Lake District Resource Assistant Andrew Johnson said, “We have received several comments from members of the public, requesting both motorized and non-motorized trail opportunities in this area.” Johnson said, “It has been challenging to create a proposal that responds to these public requests, but we think we have a good start with this proposal.” Public feedback on the proposal is encouraged, and requested by January 15.

The proposed project includes:
  • Additions to the Blacktail Wild Bill Off-Highway-Vehicle Trail with construction of about two miles of trail to establish a loop route, and expansion of the trailhead parking area at the north end of the trail system,
  • Construction of an all-terrain-vehicle trail in the Upper Stoner Creek area and a parking and access-control structures on both ends of the trail,
  • Construction of a non-motorized trail from Lakeside to Blacktail Mountain and a parking and trailhead facility, and
  • Construction of about eight miles of non-motorized trail to connect the proposed Foys to Blacktail Trail with Blacktail Mountain.

In total, approximately 31 miles of new motorized trails is proposed, making use of approximately 28 miles of existing road and three miles of new trail construction. The proposal also includes a total of about 11 miles of new non-motorized, single-track trails.

Public comments regarding the Island Unit Trail System Additions Project should be directed to the Swan Lake District by January 15, 2010. The Forest Service will then review public comments, identify issues and develop alternatives for the proposal. It is anticipated that an environmental assessment will be completed in early summer of 2010 for this project.
http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/flathead/nep...d%20Action.pdf

Last edited by MT4Runner; 01-06-2010 at 09:02 AM.
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Old 12-22-2009, 07:52 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I haven't finished my letter, but some of my draft comments:

Quote:
Originally Posted by MT4Runner
Some specific comments/thoughts people can use:
1. They did specifically omit one set of trails in the Patrick Creek area. These trails were a very popular day trip area from Kalispell and contained a very promising gravel pit. The area has seen a lot of misuse and abuse by people leaving shooting debris and high school keggers. Our club (and independent wheelers from Kalispell) have done a ton of trash cleanup in this area specifically. If the area is not included in the Travel Plan, I won't be as excited about cleaning up an area that is closed to us--but probably still will as a show of goodwill toward the FS.

2. The Foys to Blacktail Trail (north side of the Island Unit) is a great proposal for a single track non-motorized trail, but many of the proponents of this trail are very anti-ATV/motorcycle use, and ambivalent at best about 4x4 use. The existing Blacktail-Wild Bill National Recreation Trail predates their proposal, and we have tried to extend an olive branch to their group--even offering to help build their new trail segments--but haven't heard anything positive yet from their side. We need to note that we support the non-motorized uses in this area, but that we want to maintain protection of legitimate, responsible motorized trail use.

3. I don't know much about the Lakeside non-motorized trail or its proponents, hopefully they are in favor of multiple use.

4. ATV/Motorcycle users in the area are not organized, and some have cut "outlaw" trails in the area. The FS' inclusion of the under-50" trail Upper Stoner Creek loop on the east side of the Unit is a huge offer from the FS to this user group. If you know any trail riders, PLEASE make them aware of this and have them send comments. They haven't been actively looking out for their own interests, and this would is a great opportunity to do so now.

5. Prior scoping comments considered fullsize (over 50") OHV trails on the West side of the Island unit. The new fullsize trails on the east side would make an enormous scenic loop driving opportunity of the entire Island Unit. We would appreciate a non-technical scenic driving opportunity here. Rather than driving the existing "inverted-T shaped" trail up and back, or back on a road, you could drive an entire day and never leave a trail, nor follow your own tracks out. This would also extend full-size OHV use above Lakeside, which would be an economic benefit to businesses in Lakeside (restaurants, gas stations).

6. I fully support the conversion of route 9662 to a Motorized Trail legal to full-size (over 50") vehicles. I support the additions of 10152, 10149, and 2997B to the OHV system on the West side of the Island, and the construction of the new road prisms to link these routes.

7. 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 M4x4A have really made the most of this opportunity and shown the FS that we are very responsible stewards of our public lands. If you're from outside the Flathead NF area, please do mention this--and maybe even send a copy of your comments to the Recreation Specialist at your local forest district.

Shawn
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Old 01-02-2010, 05:05 PM   #3 (permalink)
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BTT...comment period closes in a little over a week.
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Old 01-06-2010, 09:02 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Here's an awesome letter from our friends at the Capital Trail Vehicle Riders' Association in Helena, MT:

Comment period closes 1/15/10.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CTVRA
January 4, 2010

District Ranger
Swan Lake Ranger District
200 Ranger Station Road
Bigfork, MT 59911
comments-northern-flathead-swan-lake@fs.fed.us

Re: Comments for the Island Unit Trail System Additions Project

Dear Sir/Madam:

We have assembled the following information and issues from our members and other motorized recreationists for the project record. We appreciate the opportunity to provide our comments for the Island Unit Trail System Additions Project. We enjoy riding our OHVs on primitive trails and roads in the Flathead National Forest. All multiple-use land managed by the Forest Service provides a significant source of these OHV recreational opportunities.

We feel that we are representative of the needs of the majority of visitors who recreate on public lands but are not be organized with a collective voice to comment on their needs during the public input process. These independent multiple-use recreationists include visitors who use motorized routes for weekend drives, mountain biking, sightseeing, exploring, picnicking, hiking, ranching, rock climbing, skiing, camping, hunting, RVs, shooting targets, timber harvesting, fishing, viewing wildlife, snowmobiling, accessing patented mining claims, and collecting firewood, natural foods, rocks, etc. Mountain bikers seem to prefer OHV trails because we clear and maintain them and they have a desirable surface for biking. Multiple-use visitors also include physically challenged visitors who must use wheeled vehicles to visit public lands. All of these multiple-use visitors use roads and motorized trails for their recreational purposes and the decision must take into account motorized designations serve many recreation activities, not just recreational trail riding. We have observed that 97% of the visitors to this area are there to enjoy motorized access and motorized recreation.

There is a great shortage of ATV and motorcycle trails in the Flathead National Forest. For this reason, we strongly recommend and support the development of a Pro-Recreation Alternative. The starting proposal by the Flathead National Forest is a good start towards a Pro-Recreation Alternative but we would recommend and support additional motorized opportunities due to the current gross unbalance of opportunities. A Pro-Recreation Alternative would include the following characteristics in addition to the Flathead National Forest starting proposal:

1. Dispersed camping within 300 feet of all existing routes.

2. Use of seasonal closures, where required, to protect the environment and wildlife with the intention of keeping routes open for the summer recreation season.

3. All of the existing routes are needed as OHV routes due to the cumulative effects of all other closures.

4. Additional OHV routes are needed to address the growing popularity of OHV recreation and the greater needs of the public for access and motorized recreation. The public needs long-distance figure 8 routes, loops and side destinations desired by OHV recreationists

a. Loops ranging from 20 to 60 miles
b. Many stops and side destinations
c. Documents and preserves the historic nature of the area

5. Grants could be used for signing at each site and the development of interpretative literature, brochures, and maps. Grants could be used where required for some route improvements.

6. We would like to see trails in the Patrick Creek area included in this plan. These trails were a very popular day trip area from Kalispell and contained a very promising gravel pit. The area has seen a lot of misuse and abuse by people leaving shooting debris and high school keggers. Various motorized club and independent wheelers from Kalispell have done a ton of trash cleanup in this area specifically. This area should be included in the Plan and motorized are willing to adopt clean-up of the area and policing.

7. The Foys to Blacktail Trail (north side of the Island Unit) is a great proposal for a single track non-motorized trail, but many of the proponents of this trail are very anti-ATV/motorcycle use, and ambivalent at best about 4x4 use. The existing Blacktail-Wild Bill National Recreation Trail predates their proposal, and motorized recreationists have tried to extend an olive branch to the non-motorized group--even offering to help build their new trail segments--but haven't heard anything positive yet from their side. We support the non-motorized uses in this area, but that we want to maintain protection of legitimate, responsible motorized trail use.

8. We strongly support the under 50" trail Upper Stoner Creek loop on the east side of the Unit as there is a huge shortage of motorcycle single-track trails in the Flathead National Forest and the forest has been closing the last remaining motorized single-track trails at an alarming rate. The public needs more motorized single-track trail and this loop will greatly benefit them.

9. The new trails for full size vehicles on the east side will make a great loop driving opportunity in the Island Unit. Rather than driving the existing inverted-T shaped trail up and back, or back on a road, you could drive an entire day and never leave the trail, nor follow your own tracks out. This also extends use above Lakeside which will support local Lakeside businesses including restaurants/gas stations.

10. The Blacktail-Wild Bill Trail project has been one of the best full-size OHV opportunities in the state in recent years. CTVA along with the Skyliners, Big Sky 4-Wheelers, and M4x4A strongly support this opportunity. We have a long history of being very responsible stewards of our public lands.

Overall in the big picture, we are extremely concerned about the unequal allocation of trail resources. The current imbalance trails in the Flathead NF is 87% non-motorized versus 13% motorized trails. A motorized trail allocation of 50% or greater and the motorized trails proposed for the Island Unit are more than justified and a good start to correcting this imbalance and inequity.

1. The public has a great need for motorized trails.
2. Under existing conditions there are considerably more non-motorized trail opportunities than motorized trail opportunities.
3. The public needs more motorized trail opportunities and not less.
4. The Forest Service has historically proposed less motorized trail opportunities.
5. Motorized recreationists have historically lost in in every travel plan action.
6. The National OHV policy was not intended to be a massive motorized closure process but that is how it is being used.

A strong Pro-Recreation alternative is viable and needed by the public. There are adequate reasons to develop and support a stronger Pro-Recreation alternative. Motorized recreationists are available to develop and support a Pro-Recreation alternative if the agency would engage them. Again, we urge the Forest Service to correct the current gross imbalance of trail opportunities and restore public confidence in the agency by developing and selecting a stronger Pro-Recreation alternative that provides equal program delivery by allocating at least 50% of the trails in the Flathead National Forest to motorized use.

We appreciate your consideration of our comments.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME
ADDRESS
CITY, STATE ZIP
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Old 01-06-2010, 02:11 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I got a copy in the mail from the FS, filled it out by hand and mailed it back a week or two ago. I hope most of the locals got copies too. Thanks for sharing the info.
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Old 01-06-2010, 04:27 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I have a few paper copies at work if anyone needs them.

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Old 01-11-2010, 09:34 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Comments due Friday the 15th!!

Thanks Steve. Many people filling them out?



comments-nothern-flathead-swan-lake@fs.fed.us

My comments as sent today:
Quote:
Originally Posted by MT4Runner
Steve Brady, District Ranger
Swan Lake Ranger District
200 Ranger Station Road
Bigfork, MT 59911

Island Unit Trail System Additions Project


Dear Ranger Brady,

Thanks again for the opportunity to comment on the Island Unit Trails project. As an active member of the Big Sky 4-Wheelers club, a resident of the Flathead valley, and a father of two young children, I am grateful for your District’s willingness to work with all recreation organizations for current and future access to our Federal public lands. I am disheartened that many other Forests in Montana (and even other Districts in the Flathead NF) have all but closed communication with motorized recreationists, yet your District maintains open lines of communication for responsible access. Thank you!

Our club, the Skyliners 4x4 club in Polson, and a half-dozen other 4x4 clubs throughout Montana, as well as many individual 4x4 enthusiasts in the Flathead valley have been active stewards of the existing Blacktail-Wild Bill National Recreation Trail. I feel we have shown extremely active and aggressive hands-on sponsorship of this trail. Combined, we have contributed over 3,000 work hours toward brushing, sign installation and maintenance, obstacle and drainage construction and maintenance, and trash cleanup. We have obtained over $7,000 in private and government (non-Forest Service) grants, and approximately $25,000 in in-kind Equipment Rental and donation. We perform quarterly trash removal in some of the more abuse-prone, non-trail areas of the Island Unit. We have assisted with FS Law Enforcement in identifying trash dumpers and illegal fire starters.

With regard to the specifics of the scoping letter printed December 10, 2009:

I strongly recommend and support a Pro-Recreation Alternative, and urge you to consider this the Preferred Alternative. I support the trails noted in the Proposed Action, and humbly suggest a couple of revisions:

1. The 2960, 2823, and 2999 routes in the upper Patrick Creek area have some great vistas of Kalispell to the north, and the gravel pit and exposed rock outcroppings are ideal sustainable challenges for high clearance vehicles.

The close proximity to Kalispell has made this an attractive location for high-school drinking parties. Our club (and independent wheelers from Kalispell) have literally performed tons of trash cleanup in this specific area. If the area is not included in the Travel Plan, we won't be as excited about cleaning up an area that is closed to us—we would hope that our prior shows of goodwill and stewardship in this area would be a factor in considering it for inclusion in the Travel Plan.

While the Scoping Letter notes that these routes are not proposed for inclusion in this proposed action, we would argue that the elements that do not harmonize with local private residences (illegal keg parties and shooting) are not of a motorized trail recreation nature, and that the presence of motorized trail recreation would both discourage such improper uses, and also provide surveillance and cleanup resources.

2. I don't know much about the Lakeside non-motorized trail or its proponents, but feel that access of any kind to the community of Lakeside should be a benefit to both the community and the Forest.

3. The Foys to Blacktail Trail (north side of the Island Unit) is a great proposal for a single track non-motorized trail, but many of the proponents of this trail have historically taken a very anti-ATV/motorcycle stance, and have been ambivalent at best about 4x4 use. The existing Blacktail-Wild Bill National Recreation Trail predates their proposal, and we have tried to extend an olive branch to their group—even offering to help build their new trail segments—but haven't heard anything positive yet from their side.

We note that we support the non-motorized uses in this area (we fully support responsible uses of all kinds), but we want to see protection of legitimate, responsible motorized trail use.

4. ATV/Motorcycle users in the area are not organized, and some have cut "outlaw" trails in the area. The FS' inclusion of the under-50" trail Upper Stoner Creek loop on the east side of the Unit is a huge offer from the FS to this user group. We are committed to helping our ATV and motorcycle enthusiast friends to show the same sort of stewardship that the 4x4 community has with our Federal public land. We support the inclusion of trails 2957, 10298, and 2959 in this project.

5. I fully support the conversion of route 9662 to a Motorized Trail legal to full-size (over 50") vehicles. I support the additions of 10152, 10149, and 2997B to the OHV system on the West side of the Island, and the construction of the new road prisms to link these routes.

6. Past preliminary scoping documents had included some potential over 50” routes on the East side. Including the routes identified in my comment 5 above on the east side would make an enormous scenic loop driving opportunity of the entire Island Unit. We would appreciate a non-technical scenic driving opportunity here. Rather than driving the existing Blacktail-Wild Bill "inverted-T shaped" trail up and back, or back on a road, you could drive an entire day and never leave a trail, nor follow your own tracks out. This would also extend full-size OHV use above Lakeside, which would be an economic benefit to businesses in Lakeside (restaurants, gas stations).

7. The 10109 road prism ties back into the Blacktail-Wild Bill OHV trail southeast of Eagle Junction (at the switchbacks above Truman Saddle). I would like to see the continuation of this route added to the Travel Plan. It has a great scenic value for family trail riding, and would require only minor brushing at the sides of the route. This would be a sustainable route with good scenic value, but would be a lower priority than items listed above.

7. With regard to other social and economic uses of this land, we continue to support continued timber harvest in this area. Timber harvest is a well-established and sustainable use of this area, and suggest that trail projects not limit future Timber projects, and that Timber projects only have temporary affects on trail systems.

8. With regard to the Forest-Wide Context as noted in the Scoping Letter, there is a vast imbalance between non-motorized and motorized uses in the Flathead National Forest. The cumulative effect of the sweeping closures on the four other Flathead NF districts is that motorized recreation has been forced onto fewer and fewer trail miles every year. This causes over-crowding and significantly greater use of the open routes. Additional responsible riding/driving opportunities to again disperse users, or additional maintenance to the more frequently used routes are the solutions to over-crowding or over-use.

This Proposed Action is an excellent and positive step toward balancing uses and providing additional opportunities for involvement from private recreation interests.

It is with gratitude to the Swan Lake Ranger District and the individuals assigned to that District that I offer my comments and pledge my support to your projects. The Swan Lake Ranger District truly upholds the motto “The Land of Many Uses”.


Best regards,


Shawn W. Baker
Member
Big Sky 4-Wheelers

Please do keep me on your mailing list for this and other recreation projects on the Swan Lake RD
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