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Island Unit Appeal Settlement In the News
The Flathead Beacon and Kalispell Daily Interlake both reported on a recent agreement we reached with the Flathead NF to settle our appeal of a project that expands off road vehicle use in the Island Unit, which is just west of Lakeside, MT. You can read more background on the project here.
The appeal settlement is far from ideal, but Swan Lake District Ranger Rich Kehr did agree to drop one motorized trail that was located right behind the residential area along Blacktail Road. Additionally the Forest Service committed to facilitate a collaborative group to participate in project implementation, which can include recommending changes to the project. One key component of the agreement was to look for ways to reduce dust along Blacktail Road and a commitment to find ways to increase law enforcement in the area; both of which the collaborative group can assist. Ultimately, we had to weigh taking our chances with the collaborative approach or going to court. The latter would take years and its always a gamble as to how the judge would rule, while the collaborative approach offers all interested stakeholders a chance to be involved with the project and work with Ranger Kehr to address people's concerns; admittedly also a gamble, but one that allows direct participation. Ranger Kehr and his staff insist that this project will reduce illegal motorized use and now people will be watching to see if he is right.
Here is the actual settlement language:
- The Forest Service agrees to not authorize wheeled motor vehicle use on National Forest System Road 2898 from its intersection with National Forest System Road 917 to its junction with National Forest System Road 10141, and to not authorize wheeled motor vehicle use on a portion of National Forest System Trail # 29907 (the Lower Z-Descent Trail) from its intersection with National Forest System Road 2898 to its intersection with National Forest System Road 10141 pursuant to the Island Unit Environmental Assessment. Nothing in this agreement prohibits the FS from proposing any future action or changes to road or trail management, consistent with all applicable laws and regulation as demonstrated through appropriate environmental analysis.
- The Forest Service agrees to work collaboratively with all interested and willing parties, including private landowners, recreational user groups, the Blacktail Mountain Ski Area, local and state agencies, and others to guide the implementation, monitoring and management of the Island Unit Trail Systems Additions Project. The Forest Service will facilitate a meeting of the group at least once a year, but recognizes that more frequent meetings would be beneficial.
- The Forest Service agrees to phase implementation of the motorized trail portions of the project starting with the Truman Creek trail additions first, including conversion of currently closed roads to trails, construction of new motorized trails, implementation of effective closure devices throughout this portion of the system – including recontouring portions of routes as needed, and implementation of patrol and monitoring plans.
- The Forest Service agrees that law enforcement patrols and law enforcement officers are a critical component of implementation, that law enforcement will be part of our patrol plan strategy, and further that we will work to increase our law enforcement capabilities in the project area.
- The Forest Service agrees to work collaboratively with interested parties to explore options to provide increased levels of dust abatement on portions of Blacktail-Radar Road both on the portions in FAA jurisdiction and National Forest jurisdiction.