Our Chance to Keep It Wild in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest
Now is the time to speak up for Badger-Two Medicine, Nevada Mountain, Big Snowies, and other places in the Forest
From the Big Snowies to the Badger-Two Medicine, the future of wild country along hundreds of miles of the wild Continental Divide and in seven awesome island ranges of central Montana is at stake in a recently released draft forest plan for the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. These alternatives are essentially options for how the Forest Service will manage the 2.8 million acre forest for the next 20 years. We have until September 6, 2018 to submit our comments and share what is important to us. The outcome of this forest plan will set the stage for future Wilderness opportunities.
If you care about wild country in the Helena-Lewis and Clark Forest, we encourage you to participate in the planning process. The Forest Service wants to hear more from us before making its final decision on the plan.
Here is a summary of the alternatives:
- Alternative A: This is the “no action” alternative. Plan components are the same as the 1986 forest plan. Alt. A has three Recommended Wilderness Areas (RWAs), totaling 34,227 acres.
- Alternative B: This alternative closely adheres to the proposed action. Alt. B has nine RWAs, totaling 213,076 acres. Alt. B excludes non-conforming motorized and mechanized recreational uses from RWAs.
- Alternative C: Similar to Alt. B, this alternative recommends nine areas, totaling 213,076 acres for wilderness. Alt. C allows for motorized and mechanized uses authorized in travel plans to continue within RWAs.
- Alternative D: This alternative has 16 RWAs, totaling 474,589 acres. Alt. D also excludes non-conforming motorized and mechanized recreational uses from RWAs. Alt. D also includes additional primitive recreation areas in the Highwoods, Badger-Two Medicine, and Elkhorns.
- Alternative E: This alternative has no RWAs.
MWA will advocate for Alt. B with additional protections and RWAs from Alt. D. We will also continue to oppose the inclusion of non-conforming motorized and mechanized recreational uses within recommended Wilderness that is considered in Alt. C.
Here are our top goals for the final plan:
- Recommended Wilderness for the Big Snowies and the Middle Fork Judith. These threatened wilderness study areas deserve protection. We are asking that the entire Big Snowy WSA and adjoining roadless areas be recommended for Wilderness. In the Middle Fork, we are asking that the non-motorized portion of the WSA be recommended for Wilderness or, at a minimum, designated for primitive recreation only.
- Recommended Wilderness for Nevada Mountain and additions to the Scapegoat Wilderness Area. These areas along the Continental Divide are important connective corridors for wildlife and offer great opportunities for solitude in the Lincoln area.
- Protection for Camas Creek, Mount Baldy, and Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Additions in the Big Belts; Deep Creek and the Smith River Corridor in the Little Belts; for Electric Peak in the Divide area; and for the North Crazy Mountains. We are asking the Forest Service to recommend Wilderness for the roadless portions of these areas.
- Protection for the wild core of the Elkhorn Mountains. We are asking the Forest Service to fully protect the wild core and apply much clearer and stronger protection, including a ban on oil and gas leases throughout the Elkhorn Wildlife Management Unit.
- Protection for both cultural and wild values and recognition for tribal treaty rights in the Badger-Two Medicine. We are asking the Forest Service to apply many of the same protective standards as recommended Wilderness to the Badger while also adding components that specifically protect cultural values and enables the Blackfeet to make management decisions along with the Forest Service.
- Protection for the Continental Divide Trail Corridor. Forest-wide direction in all alternatives provides outstanding protections for the corridor surrounding the CDT (273 miles). All alternatives prevent oil and gas development, use of CDT for skid trails (paths caused by dragging felled trees), and motorized use. All alternatives ensure the CDT remains a quiet mountain trail. MWA asks that no exceptions be allowed to permit motorized special events on the CDT.
- A clear prohibition on snowmobiling and mountain biking in recommended Wilderness. When motorized and mechanized recreational uses become established, the potential for Wilderness designation erodes over time. We are asking for clear language that excludes motorized and mechanized use from recommended Wilderness.
We hope you’ll join us in making these same recommendations to the Forest Service. The best way to do that is by sending the Forest Service comments that include personal, unique stories of your experiences in areas of the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest.
We also hope that you plan to attend one of the upcoming public meetings, where you will be able to talk directly with decision-makers on the forest planning team.
Stanford: July 23, 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. at the Stanford City Hall
Lewistown: July 23, 5 - 7 p.m. at the BLM office
Harlowtown: July 24, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. at the Harlowtown Library
White Sulphur Springs: July 24, 5 - 7 p.m. at the WSS High School Cafeteria
Helena: July 25, 5 - 7 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel
Boulder: July 26, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. at the Boulder Fairgrounds Volunteer Hall
Townsend: July 26, 5 - 7 p.m. at the Townsend Library
Lincoln: July 30, 5 - 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Community Hall
Choteau: August 1, 5 - 7 p.m. at the Stage Stop Inn
Great Falls: August 2, 5 - 7 p.m. at the Civic Center
If you have any questions, feel free to call me at (406) 544-1093 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Casey Perkins, MWA Rocky Mountain Front field director