The Helena National Forest plans to close 30 percent of roads to wheeled motorized use in a portion of the Lincoln Ranger District.
Forest supervisor William Avey released a final environmental impact statement and a draft record of decision for the nonwinter Blackfoot Travel Plan. The area encompasses approximately 238,000 acres of the forest outside of the Scapegoat Wilderness.
The alternative chosen in the decision reduces available routes to wheeled motorized vehicles by 157 miles. The decision leaves 289 miles available. The decision also calls for decommissioning, or destruction and reclamation, of 212 miles of roads.
Around 4 miles of new motorized trails would be constructed, and
9 miles of existing routes would be reconstructed. Nonmotorized users will get 21 miles of new trails as part of the plan.
The Forest Service received nearly 17,000 comments during the scoping period. All but around 500 of those came from the Wilderness Society in identical form letters. After identifying other form letters, the agency analyzed 284 individual comments on the plan.
Significant issues the comments covered include wildlife habitat, motorized and nonmotorized trails and water quality.
Comments led to adjustments in the final environmental impact statement and the development of an amendment for changing the standard for big game security, the decision said. The current standard looks at hiding cover across the area. The new security standard identifies road-free areas where big game can seek refuge during hunting seasons.
The travel plan comes in response to a 2005 Forest Service rule at the national level requiring districts to develop site-specific travel plans.
The Blackfoot Travel Plan is subject to an objection period before final implementation.
The environmental impact statement, maps, appendices and records of decisions are available for review at the Lincoln and Helena public libraries and are also posted on the Helena National Forest website. Printed copies are available at the Lincoln Ranger District, 1569 Hwy 200 in Lincoln, or the Helena National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 2880 Skyway Drive in Helena.
Additional information can be obtained from Amber Kamps, Lincoln District ranger, at 406-362-7000.