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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Feb 03 2016

Keep the Quiet

Help us persuade Forest Service to protect mountain solitude and vital wildlife habitat in southwest Montana

Alerts, Featured

Spanning across much of southwest Montana, from the West Big Hole to the Madison Range, the 3.3 million acre Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (BDNF) encompasses eight mountain ranges and contains some of Montana’s wildest and most rugged country. The towering mountains, vast backcountry, and broad valleys within the Forest also provide some of the best wildlife habitat in the state.

But BDNF’s current forest plan, dating from 2009, puts many critical areas at risk, including Mount Jefferson, the shoulders of the Anaconda-Pintler, the high basins of the West Pioneers, and other wildlands in southwest Montana, where a growing number of Montanans go to enjoy the solitude and quietness that a dwindling number of places now offer these days. The plan also fails to protect the winter range and other habitat that big game depends on.

The Forest Service is taking another look at the plan, and is considering amending it. The plan needs to be amended, or else we could end up degrading some of Montana’s wildest country and undermining the quiet outdoor traditions that support the local economies of southwest Montana.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Region 3 is where half of Montana’s elk harvest occurs, and much of that region falls within the Beaverhead-Deerlodge. The hunting is so good the BDNF landed on Field and Stream’s list of top ten places in the nation to hunt elk. More than just an elk sanctuary, the Forest also serves as an important corridor for sensitive wildlife migrating between Montana’s high divide country and the vast wilderness areas of central Idaho. And yet, the Forest Service’s plan leaves more than 60% of winter range open to snowmobiles and other motorized winter recreation. Currently, 91% of the Big Hole winter range, 83% of the north side of the Flint winter range, and 77% of the Pioneer Winter Range are open to snowmobile use. That’s not what Montanans would consider balanced use.

Now you have a chance to make a big difference for southwest Montana’s wildlife and wild places. Until March 3, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is taking a forest-wide look at the impacts of snowmobiling and other forms of winter motorized recreation in some of our finest backcountry, and the agency needs to hear from you.

Send the Forest Service your comments now, encouraging the agency to amend its Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest plan.

Here’s how we’re asking the Forest Service to amend the BDNF plan:

  • Protect Mount Jefferson and the ultimate headwaters of the Missouri River by keeping the upper Hellroaring Creek drainage to the Continental Divide motor-free.
  • Eliminate snowmobiling in Sullivan Creek and around Barker Lake on the shoulders of the Anaconda-Pintler.
  • Significantly decrease the amount of winter range open to snowmobile use.
  • Keep the high basins of the West Pioneers – including Bobcat Lakes, Lost Horn Mountain and Grouse Lakes – quiet for current and future generations of outdoor enthusiasts.

Montana’s largest national forest is big enough of snowmobilers, bow hunters, hikers, snowshoers – for all of us who enjoy the Forest. Please encourage the National Forest to adopt a common-sense amendment that balances recreation with quiet wildlife habitat and winter range for big game.

Don’t forget, the deadline for commenting is March 3, 2016. Send your comments now.

For more on the BDNF’s plan, click here for the Forest Service’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. 

If you’d like to submit your comments by snail mail, you can send them to:

Jan Bowey
Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest All Units
420 Barrett St., Dillon, MT 59725-3572

For more information on the forest plan and MWA’s priorities in the BDNF, please contact me at scathey@wildmontana.org.

- Sally Cathey, southwest Montana field director