January 4, 2010
Swan Lake Ranger District
200 Ranger Station Road
Bigfork, MT 59911
Re: Comments for the Island Unit Trail System Additions Project
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.
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