Flathead National Forest seeks input
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: January 22, 2022


Kalispell, MT, January 21, 2022 — The Flathead National Forest has released the proposed action to address the changes the revised forest plan (2018) made pertaining to suitability of motorized over-snow vehicle use and recommended wilderness areas. When a forest plan identifies an area as not suitable for an activity such as mechanized transport (e.g., mountain biking) or motorized use, the plan has no immediate effect on the public. This is because changes in suitability allocations in the forest plan are programmatic in nature and do not change any site-specific public uses until second-tiered, site-specific planning takes place.

This proposed action will not be re-visiting the decisions the forest plan made regarding the selection of recommended wilderness areas or which areas are suitable or unsuitable for motorized over-snow vehicle use. Instead, this analysis will focus on evaluating the site-specific effects of prohibiting or designating (allowing) certain uses and activities only within those areas.

The project proposes to update the motorized over-snow vehicle use map to designate or prohibit motorized over-snow use in those areas where the 2018 Forest Plan made changes in motorized over-snow vehicle use suitability; prohibit motorized use and mechanized transport in recommended wilderness areas by issuing a long-term forest closure order; and clarify the forest plan direction in recommended wilderness related to mechanized/transport/motorized uses for administrative purposes.

The scope of the analysis will be based on the change in suitability for motorized over-snow vehicle use which correlates to about a decrease in suitability of 12,234 acres and about an increase in suitability on 12,759 acres across the forest.

Currently, within the 190,403 acres of recommended wilderness areas, approximately 96 miles of trail allow mechanized transport and 383 acres allow over-snow motorized use. This proposal would evaluate the effects of prohibiting the public from mechanized transport and over-snow motorized use in these areas.

Additionally, during the review of the suitability components for recommended wilderness areas, the Forest Service identified conflicting language in a couple of the suitability components not related to public uses. To address these conflicts, this project will propose a programmatic amendment to clarify direction for administrative use of motorized use/mechanized transport in recommended wilderness.

For a complete description of proposals, maps, and information on how to comment, please visit the project webpage at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=61460. If you do not have any site-specific comments at this time but would like to get updates on the project you can send your contact information to comments-northern-flathead@usda.gov.

If you have questions or need further information, please contact Michele Draggoo atmichele.draggoo@usda.gov or (406)758-5269.