Scoping Begins for Elk Lake Access Project in Vermilion River Drainage
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: April 17, 2020

The Cabinet Ranger District of the Kootenai National Forest is proposing the Elk Lake Access Project to improve the recreational access opportunities in the Vermilion River drainage and to meet the standards for grizzly bear habitat in the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear recovery zone. The project is located in Sanders County, approximately 10 miles east of Trout Creek, Montana. The legal location for proposed management activities is in sections 25 and 35 in T25N, R30W; sections 26, 34-35 in T25, R29W; and section 4 in T24N, R30W; PMM.

The Elk Lake Access project proposal includes changing the motorized designation of Moose Peak National Forest System trail (NFS) #877, Elk Mountain NFS trail #861, and the existing Elk Lake NFS trail #882 from motorized (motorcycle) to non-motorized, and constructing an additional trail to Elk Lake that would be open to motorized (ATV and motorcycle) use. Additionally, the project would provide additional parking at the Elk Lake trailhead by widening the Sims Creek road (NFSR 2232), rehab a user-created trail to Elk Lake and construct a new trail terminus near the lake.

These project activities would improve motorized and non-motorized recreational opportunities, reduce resource damage, and reduce motorized routes in grizzly bear habitat. This project would result in a net reduction of motorized trails within the Allen Peak Inventoried Roadless Area and improved trail safety. This project would also result in a net reduction of total motorized route density, bringing the Vermilion Bear Management Unit (BMU8) to the standards required by the 2015 Forest Plan.

The Cabinet District is seeking public feeback during the 30-day comment period to identify any potential issues or concerns on this proposed project. The Proposed Action document can be found at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=57864 and provides a preliminary effect analysis and information on the project and details on the actions being proposed.

Hardcopy written comments must be mailed to the Cabinet Ranger District office at 2693 MT Hwy 200, Trout Creek, MT 59874 or faxed to (406) 827-0718. Electronic comments must be sent to comments-northern-kootenai-cabinet@usda.gov with Elk Lake Access Project in the subject line. In keeping with the precautionary measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the office is not open at this time for hand-delivered comment submissions. For more information, please contact Project Leader Kira Powell by phone at 406-827-0731 or by email kira.powell@usda.gov.