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Proposed forest plan strikes the right balance | Guest Columns

Proposed forest plan strikes the proper stability | Visitor Columns

Earlier this summer season, the Custer Gallatin Nationwide Forest launched the draft file of determination (DROD) for the forest plan revision. This doc outlines administration priorities for the Custer Gallatin that can final for as much as three a long time, so evidently, the contents of the choice had been painstakingly thought-about and much more carefully scrutinized.

As a part of the Gallatin Forest Partnership (GFP), the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Affiliation was inspired to see a lot of the GFP settlement mirrored within the DROD. The partnership, a coalition of recreation, conservation, enterprise, landowner and company teams, spent years growing complete administration suggestions for the Forest Service, and the collaborative effort appears to have paid off.

The DROD strikes an vital stability between conservation and recreation, figuring out new recreation emphasis areas, the place present utilization is concentrated and future use will seemingly improve, whereas additionally outlining wildlife administration areas, the place recreation will likely be extremely regulated with out being banned outright. New really helpful wilderness was advised for vital sections of the Gallatin Vary, doubtlessly ending a long time of disagreement of the way forward for the Gallatin Crest.

From a mountain biker’s perspective, there’s a lot to be blissful about. We commend the Forest Service for recommending common trails in Hyalite stay open to bikes, together with Emerald Lake, Hyalite Creek, and Storm Fort. Traditionally, mountain bikers have loved entry to those iconic trails, and SWMMBA volunteers have spent many hours clearing these trails early in the summertime, opening them for all customers.

We had been additionally blissful to see the Porcupine drainage recognized as a backcountry space, targeted on wildlife administration with out limiting mountain bikes. The Massive Sky neighborhood is surrounded by congressionally-designated wilderness, the place mountain bikes can’t go, and Massive Sky-area bikers depend upon the paths in Porcupine for entry. With continued seasonal administration, we are able to coexist with the drainage’s wildlife. Beneath the present file of determination, the traditional Buffalohorn to Porcupine experience may even stay open.

Whereas there may be a lot to rejoice on this draft file of determination, a number of key factors of the GFP settlement weren’t included, and we urge the Forest Service to rethink in these circumstances. For instance, the settlement referred to as for extra really helpful wilderness within the Cowboy Heaven space of the northern Madison Vary. This panorama is significant wildlife habitat that sees little recreation use—it will make a logical addition to the adjoining Spanish Peaks Unit of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. Together with our GFP companions, SWMMBA helps really helpful wilderness in Cowboy Heaven.

Moreover, whereas extra recreation emphasis space was added within the Storm Fort and Little Bear zones, South Cottonwood was not noted. The GFP outlined administration throughout the Gallatin Entrance, the place we see extra concentrated recreation. Leaving South Cottonwood out of this zone ignores the excessive recreation worth South Cottonwood already has. Hikers, runners, dog-walkers, skiers and cyclists all use the South Cottonwood path, and this space logically matches into the recreation emphasis space designation, which might additionally defend it from logging.

Going ahead, it’s clear the Custer Gallatin Nationwide Forest must actively handle these extremely regarded landscapes for each recreation strain and conservation outcomes. The GFP settlement does simply that, figuring out wildlife-management priorities, areas the place recreation will be concentrated to focus use, and landscapes applicable for future wilderness designations. The draft file of determination goes a great distance towards adopting many key factors of the GFP settlement, and SWMMBA seems ahead to seeing a ultimate file of determination that retains such a excessive degree of overlap.

Ian Jones is the president of the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Affiliation board of administrators. He served as a SWMMBA consultant to the Gallatin Forest Partnership and is a passionate advocate for public-lands recreation and conservation.

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