Mountain bike access to some of the best trails in the area are at risk! Your help is needed!
The Flathead National Forest is working on revising the Forest Plan – the document that guides all use within the local forests. Trails like Alpine No. 7 are at risk of being closed to bikes, but we’re fighting to not only preserve access, but also improve it.
We’re asking anyone who likes riding bikes in the forest to submit comments regarding the plan to make sure we have support for bikes on trails into the future. We strongly urge you to submit your comments here and support the continued (and improved!) access for bikes in our national forests!
The deadline is October 3rd, so send in your comments today!
If you want to read through the draft forest plan yourself, you can check it out here. FFT is submitting in depth comments on a number of issues, and you can read our full comments here.
But if you don’t have time to read through all of that, here are 5 key points. Feel free to use these points in your comments, and build on them with any personal reasons you have for supporting mountain biking in the Flathead National Forest. Or if nothing else, you can literally just cut and paste the bullet points below into the comment form.
Comment 1) We support maintaining existing levels of mountain bike use in appropriate recommended wilderness areas.
BACKGROUND: Most areas that are newly designated as “Recommended Wilderness” in Montana, northern Idaho, and North Dakota ban bikes because bikes are considered by the agency to be “non-conforming uses”. IMBA and the Flathead Fat Tires disagree with this management decision, and many other national forests around the country do not ban bikes in recommended wilderness. The Flathead National Forest is considering allowing existing levels of mountain bike use to continue in some recommended wilderness areas. We commend the Flathead National Forest for their reasonable and adaptive approach for allowing some levels of mountain bike use to continue in recommended wilderness areas as we believe bicycles are compatible uses in these areas, and the Forest Service’s own environmental study suggests that bikes have minimal impacts.
Not only is this important for the specific trails located in the Flathead National Forest, but it’s important for mountain bike access everywhere in the region. The Flathead NF has recognized that mountain bikes are compatible with pristine, backcountry trails, and we need to support this recognition in our comments.
Comment 2) We do not support recommended wilderness on the Flathead National Forest beyond that proposed in “Alternative B” of the draft Forest Plan. Additionally, we do not support any management prescriptions or designations that would disallow the continuation of bicycling on any portion of the Alpine No. 7. Trail that is currently open to mountain bike use.
BACKGROUND: The Forest Service has put forth four alternatives for managing the forest. Alternative B is a blend of recommended wilderness, recreation access (both motorized and non-motorized), and timber interests. While we would love to see more support for recreational access throughout the forest, we feel that Alternative B is a reasonable, and perhaps more importantly, realistic approach. Most importantly, Alternative B maintains mountain bike access to some of the best trails in the area, including the Alpine 7 trail in the Swan and Columbia Mtn. areas. Alpine 7, along with the various trails used to access it, provide some of the best high alpine mountain biking in the region, and there are no other trails in the Flathead National Forest that offer the same experience.
Comment 3) We support the recommendations of the Whitefish Range Partnership.
BACKGROUND: Flathead Fat Tire has spent several years participating in the Whitefish Range Partnership, a collaborative group of diverse participants who have formed a set of recommendations for the Whitefish Range. Those recommendations cover everything from timber sales to recommended wilderness to additional trails for bikes. Therefore, we support all recommendations of the Partnership.
Comment 4) We support expanding mountain bike opportunities in the Crane Mountain, Crystal-Cedar, and Werner-Nicola focused recreation areas because these areas are accessible, have topography that lends itself to trail networks, and have excellent potential for interconnectivity with existing trails.
BACKGROUND: The forest service is considering designating certain areas of the forest as being appropriate for increased recreational development, or in other words, more trails. For mountain bikers, the three key areas are Crane Mountain (south of Bigfork), Crystal-Cedar (immediately north of Columbia Falls), and Werner-Nicola (northwest of Whitefish Mountain Resort). A recreation designation will make it much easier to propose and build trails in those areas in the future. Due to the ease of access, topography, and potential for interconnectivity with existing trails, we feel that each of these areas have excellent opportunities for trail networks.
Comment 5) We support the expansion of public-private partnerships to maintain and build trails. We commend the Forest Plan for encouraging these types of public / private relationships to an even greater extent than they already exist in this forest plan.
BACKGROUND: The Forest Service’s budget isn’t what it used to be – maintaining existing trails is a tall order, and building new ones is even tougher. While we’d love to see Congress provide appropriate funding to the Forest Service, we also recognize the reality of the situation. This means that FFT, along with other non-profits in the valley want to step up and help maintain and build trail. We need the Forest Plan to encourage these types of public / private relationships as much as possible.