The Gallatin National Forest has published their Motorized Trail Closure Plan, oops… I meant Travel Management Plan preferred alternative. Information is available at:
Alternative 7 is the preferred alternative selected by the Forest Service; however, it is not a lucky No. 7 alternative for motorized recreationists as shown on the attached table developed from information in Chapter 2. The % change from the current condition has been added in red for comparison to existing conditions.
First, start with the miles of ATV roads. Under Current conditions there are 77 miles of “legal” ATV road opportunity available. Under Alternative 7 this opportunity increases to 361 miles. Sounds good if you like to ride roads. Next look at the miles of trails open to ATVs which is 680 miles currently and decreases to 167 miles or 25% of the existing miles under Alternative 7. Ouch, this is a big time loss of the most valuable OHV recreational opportunity!At first glance motorcycle trails look encouraging with an increase from 69 miles under Current condition to 238 miles under Alternative 7. However, one must remember that all of the existing ATV trails are open to motorcycles also so overall motorbike riders are subject to the same huge overall loss of trail riding opportunities. The last category in the following table was created in order to evaluate that overall loss to motorbike riders. This category is a combined number of miles of ATV and Motorcycle roads and trails (they appear to be mutually exclusive so that they can be added up without duplication). Note that this combination of trail miles is only available to motorcycle trail riders. This combination may give us a better handle on the impacts to motorcycle opportunities. Road riding opportunities in the Combined category go from 80 miles under Current conditions to 375 miles under Alternative 7 or an increase of 469% but the more valuable trail riding opportunities go from 749 miles under Current conditions to 405 miles under Alternative 7 or a reduction of 54% to motorcyclists. Again, the trail riding opportunities are probably the most valuable category for most motorcycle riders and they are significantly reduced.
Perhaps the Forest Service has orchestrated the combined road and motorized trail riding opportunities to conceal the real impact of the motorized trail closures. Combined road and trail opportunities go from 829 miles under Current conditions to 780 miles under Alternative 7 or about 94% of existing. Sounds OK at first but while the total miles are similar, the quality and type of motorized recreational experience would change dramatically from trail riding to road riding opportunities. With this in mind, this change does not satisfy our needs.
To summarize again, trail riding opportunities for ATV enthusiasts are reduced to 25% of existing and trail riding opportunities for motorcyclists are reduced to 54% of existing. The trail riding opportunities are the most valuable and the proposed plan would produce a significant reduction.
Once again motorized trail closures in the preferred alternative turn out to be in the 25% to 50% range that we are seeing in most Montana travel plans. Even though we are seeing this trend over and over, the Forest Service and BLM have yet to address the cumulative impacts of this closure trend. When will justice be served?
Lastly, I still wonder whether the number of miles of existing roads and trails identified by GNF is a complete inventory of all existing motorized routes meeting the definitions found in the 3-States OHV decision. A total of 700 to 800 miles of existing motorized trails in a forest the size of the Gallatin is not that great. I would appreciate hearing from others more familiar with the entire Gallatin National Forest as to whether the current inventory of existing routes is complete. You can download the maps from the web site but they are about 9 megs apiece and they do not have enough detail to demonstrate a reasonably accurate location of each road and trail (yet another problem!).
The forest has published this information in advance of the DEIS and has stated that they will not accept comments until the DEIS is released in the Spring of 2005.
However, we should take this lead time to:
(1) Begin our comment campaign;
(2) Get our local, state, and federal representatives involved;
(3) Submit suggested changes to the preferred alternative in order to make it a lot more reasonable;
(4) Meet with the Forest Supervisor to express our concerns and present a more reasonable alternative;
(5) Plan a rally to get the GNF’s attention similar to the 2000 person rally in Billings opposing the Custer National Forest’s travel plan that FFOR sponsored.
Comparison of Gallatin National ForestTravel Plan Alternatives October 2004
|Recreation Opportunity||Current||Alt. 2||Alt. 3||Alt. 4||Alt. 5||Alt. 6||Alt. 7 (FS choice)|
|Miles of Road||321||326||422||416||398||402||400|
|% of Current||102%||131%||130%||124%||125%||125%|
|Backcountry Roads (4x4)|
|% of Current||99%||85%||86%||78%||69%||82%|
|Miles of Road||77||73||372||342||310||285||361|
|% of Current||95%||483%||444%||403%||370%||469%|
|% of Current||41%||33%||34%||19%||8%||25%|
|% of Current||47%||79%||76%||58%||44%||70%|
|Miles of Road||3||8||14||7||9||0||14|
|% of Current||267%||467%||233%||300%||0%||467%|
|Miles of Trail||69||457||393||194||149||0||238|
|% of Current||662%||570%||281%||216%||0%||345%|
|% of Current||646%||565%||279%||219%||0%||350%|
|Combined ATV and Motorcycle Opportunities (Only available to motorcycles)|
|Miles of Road||80||81||386||349||319||285||375|
|% of Current||101%||483%||436%||399%||356%||469%|
|Miles of Trail||749||738||618||428||279||51||405|
|% of Current||99%||83%||57%||37%||7%||54%|
|% of Current||99%||121%||94%||72%||41%||94%|