The Flathead National Forest requested public input on the issuance of temporary permits authorizing the Whitefish Trails Ultra-Marathon and Whitefish Shuttle Livery and Guiding on the Tally Lake Ranger District, the Foy’s to Blacktail Trail Marathon on the Swan Lake Ranger District and the Journey to Wellness Program on both districts. Both marathons would take place in MA 7 Focused Recreation areas. The projects would be authorized using 36 CFR 220.6(d)(8): Approval, modification, or continuation of minor, short-term (1 year or less) special uses of National Forest System lands.
Following are FAMB's comments, submitted to the US Forest Service on June 18, 2019:
Dear District Ranger Mulholland,
Please accept these comments from the Flathead Area Mountain Bikers (FAMB) in support of the issuance of permits for the Whitefish Trails Ultra-Marathon, the Whitefish Shuttle Livery and Guiding, the Foy’s to Blacktail Trail Marathon, and the Journey to Wellness Program.
First and foremost, FAMB does not believe that a public comment period is necessary for the permits at issue. All of these permits fall squarely within the categorical exclusions set forth in 36 CFR 220.6(d)(8), 36 CFR 220.6(e)(3), and other categories described in Chapter 30 of the Forest Service Handbook. None of those categories require a public comment period. While there are clearly parties in the Flathead Valley that will jump at any opportunity to contest recreational ventures on the Flathead National Forest, the Forest Service need not be beholden to those extremist view points, and those minority opinions should not dictate the rational implementation of established Forest Service policy that benefits the vast majority of users with minimal impact.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, FAMB supports the permits at issue. These are well run, well organized events and businesses that are operating in areas of the forest that are appropriate for the activities at issue. All of these permits cover well established trails that see high levels of use. The occurrence of these permitted activities will not have a significant impact on the overall level of use for the subject areas.
Ultimately, these permits provide excellent ways for the public to use their public lands in a responsible, well organized manner. As FAMB has stated in the past, the public's appreciation for our national forests is something that must not be taken for granted, and the best way to foster such an appreciation is to get people out in the forest and enjoy everything that our public lands has to offer. One of the best ways to do that is to support events and businesses that help people get out on the Forest, and these permits do exactly that.
For these reasons, FAMB strongly supports the issuance of these permits.
Flathead Area Mountain Bikers, Inc.
FAMB is recognized as a nonprofit organization under IRS Code 501(c)(3)
Flathead Area Mountain Bikers, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is working to promote mountain biking and improve trail access in the Flathead Valley.