Swan View Coalition issues statement in regard to ultra-marathon on FS land
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: July 2, 2019

Press release from Swan View Coalition

A Flathead area conservation group said it was disappointed but not surprised by today’s decision by the Flathead National Forest to issue a Special Use Permit to Whitefish Legacy Partners for up to 200 people to run an ultra-marathon from Whitefish to the top of Big Mountain and back. “In fact,” Swan View Coalition Chair Keith Hammer said, “the permit was issued on April 9, 2019. The public review comment period for this event was only a week long, beginning on June 12 and ending on June 19. It wasn’t added to the Forest’s schedule of proposed actions until July 1. It was a sham and the decision was predetermined.”

Nonetheless, Hammer said the public comment period did spur public debate over the issue of the Flathead endorsing commercial special use permits for activities the Flathead Forest and other agencies recommend against due to the increased risk of surprise encounters between people and bears. “Our conscience is clear,” Hammer said. “We’re not saying people can’t trail run and ride mountain bikes on the Flathead, but we don’t think the Flathead should be commercially promoting races that negate the warnings that such activities increase risk and can have grave consequences.”

“We do wish the groups and businesses sponsoring these events would listen to the bear experts and not support the issuing of these race permits,” Hammer said. “There are less risky ways to recognize their work and raise money without encouraging irresponsible behavior that has led to injury and death to both people and bears. The Flathead is not providing good leadership here.”

“Risks and consequences are not created equal,” Hammer said. “If someone drowns while whitewater rafting, the government doesn’t drain the river. If someone tangles with a bear, however, too often the government kills the bear even though it was simply defending itself or its cubs.”

“We’re not saying that there will necessarily be a bear-human conflict during these particular events,” Hammer said, “but the long-term commercial exploitation of trail running and mountain bike racing will most certainly result in more risky behavior and more bad encounters. The Forest Supervisor has made it known he intends to fully promote recreation, so we can only assume there will be permits issued for trail running and mountain bike racing in areas other than Big Mountain and Foys to Blacktail. The Whitefish permit sets a bad precedent for what is sure to follow.”