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Clearwater Travel Plan

posted Jan 18, 2012, 9:58 AM by Lance Pysher
Continuing a process that began with the Beaverhead/Deer Lodge National Forest, the Clearwater National Forest has closed all trails in recommended wilderness to mountain bikes. The one exception being an ATV trail to Fish Lake.

The Forest Supervisor has made the decision to implement Alternative C Modified.  Alternative C Modified was added to the alternative array for the FEIS in response to comments received for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).  Alternative C Modified was based on Alternative C, so many features of the two alternatives are the same.  However, Alternative C Modified would respond to issues and concerns about opportunities for motorcycle loop trips to a greater degree than Alternative C. 

Under Alternative C Modified, 0 acres will be open to cross-country motorized travel off of designated routes; 2,961 miles of motorized road routes will be open either year-round or seasonally; 496 miles of motorized trail routes will be open either year-round or seasonally; 253 miles of motorized trail routes in Inventoried Roadless Areas will be open either year-round or seasonally; 4,354 road miles will be open to bicycles and mechanized vehicles either year-round or seasonally; 988 trail miles will be open to bicycles and mechanized vehicles either year-round or seasonally; 1,319,623 acres will be open to over-snow motorized vehicle travel; and 0 trail miles will be open to bicycle travel in Recommended Wilderness Areas.  Motorized travel to dispersed campsites within 300 feet of a designated motorized route will be permitted as long as conditions for that travel are met.  Some route-based restrictions for over-snow motorized vehicles will be simplified, compared to the existing condition, to make the restrictions and the Winter Use Map clearer.  These changes will have an insignificant effect on motorized over-snow recreational opportunities.  Over-snow motorized vehicle use will be restricted yearlong in Recommended Wilderness Areas and on Fish Lake Trail 419.

The closure will affect access to Heart Lake, which is a popular ride to a high alpine lake for the Missoula crowd. Although the lake and most of the trail is in the Lolo National Forest, a portion of the route is on the Stateline trail which is regulated by the Clearwater National Forest,and is slated for closure.

The Bitterroot National Forest is planning to release their finalized travel plan in the near future and we anticipate that several popular trails including Blodgett Canyon, Bear Creek Overlook, and Blue Joint will be closed.

The formation of the Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists was partially in response to the threat of these closures and our belief that access to our trails would be better served by voicing our concerns as an organized group rather than as individuals.

As a group we cannot file an appeal to the travel plan due to regulations of the National Environmental Protection Act. However several of us as individuals are able to appeal, and we will be working with IMBA and the MMBA to appeal the closure of the Stateline trails and all other trails closures.

Please consider joining and help up us keep the trails open.