Montana's Rocky Mountain Front: Honoring the Tradition
Letters Needed Today to Help Protect the Front or attend One of the Open Houses Scheduled for June in Montana Communities
The Forest Service is developing a Travel Plan for one of North America's most stunning landscapes, Montana's Rocky Mountain Front.
The Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front urges you to attend one of the upcoming public meetings, read and review the draft alternative Travel Plan, and contact the Forest Service in support of Alternative 3, which balances opportunities for hunting and packing; quiet recreation; protects private land from illegal trespass; and checks the spread of noxious weeds.
In 2003, because of overwhelming public response, the Lewis and Clark National Forest dumped a proposed Travel Plan for the Front and started over. Now the Forest Service has released the draft Travel Plans for the Rocky Mountain Front. The draft has five alternatives and the eventual final plan will guide forest travel and many uses for the next 15 years.
The Forest Service did not specify a preferred alternative and is asking the public for input during the next sixty days (Deadline August 16). Now it's up to us to help the Forest Service choose the best solution. Therefore, it's important that as many folks as possible attend an open house - they start right away next week - to participate in the democratic process, share your thoughts with agency staff and fellow Montanans and then formally comment to the Forest Service. PLEASE submit written comments at the open house or send your comments to the Forest Service.
What You Can Do:
Attend one of the public meetings being held by the Forest Service. These meetings are:
- Browning Student Commons Building, Blackfeet Community College Tuesday, June 21 7-9 p.m.
- Choteau Stage Stop Inn Wednesday, June 22 7-9 p.m.
- Great Falls Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center Thursday, June 23 7-9 p.m.
- East Glacier Community Center /Library Monday, June 27 7-9 p.m.
- Heart Butte Senior Citizen Center Tuesday, June 28 1-3 p.m.
- Cut Bank Glacier Electric Bldg. 410 East Main Street Tuesday, June 28 7-9 p.m.
- Augusta Senior Citizen Bldg. Wednesday, June 29 7-9 p.m.
- Send a letter to the Forest Service with your comments for the draft travel plans.
- Written, personalized comments are by far the best. So we need you to write a letter today. Here are some important points you might want to raise in your comments:
- --The final travel plan should uphold the long tradition of horse and foot travel along the Rocky Mountain Front.
- --Alternative Three is the best solution for the most Montanans. It balances opportunities for hunting and packing; quiet recreation; protects private land from illegal trespass; and checks the spread of noxious weeds.
- --A common-sense travel plan must balance recreational uses. While it can include some off-road vehicle activity, it must also protect the land, wildlife, private property and quiet recreation opportunities for all Americans.
- --Montanans are strongly on record about a Front Travel Plan. In 2002 and 2003 the Forest Service conducted a public "scoping period" on a possible Travel Plan. In response, Montanans overwhelmingly urged the Lewis and Clark National Forest to adopt a plan that favors traditional use, such as walking, hiking, and horseback riding. An analysis showed that over 7600 comments were received, the largest public response ever received by the Lewis and Clark National Forest, and more than 98 percent of Montanans urged the Forest Service to develop a new conservation-based plan while less than 2 percent of the respondents supported ORV use on the Rocky Mountain Front.
- --The Front provides critical winter range for big game and a wide variety of wildlife.
Comments are due by August 16, 2005
CONTACTING THE FOREST SERVICE:
Written comments should be sent to:
Spike Thompson, Forest Supervisor
Lewis and Clark National Forest
PO Box 869
Great Falls, MT 59403-0869
Please indicate "RMRD Travel Plan DEIS" in the subject line
- Write a letter or copy your comments to Montana's Congressional delegation:
It is important that you also send a copy of your comments to Montana's two Senators Since Congress will ultimately need to take action to protect the Front, it is important that you also contact Montana's delegation. At the very least send a copy of your comments to Montana's Senators and Representative. Send to:
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
See the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front's web page: http://www.savethefront.org
The Forest Service web has the complete draft alternatives: www.fs.fed.us/r1/lewisclark
Local libraries along the Front have hard copies of the draft alternatives.
Stretching for over a hundred miles, from Glacier National Park to near Helena, Montana's Rocky Mountain Front is a place of unparalleled natural beauty. From atop the massive limestone cliffs that jut skyward three thousand feet one can gaze out onto a Great Plains virtually unchanged since the days of Lewis and Clark. With the exception of wild bison, the full complement of native wildlife still inhabits the Front. This long north-south strip of wildlife habitat is so rich that Montana's Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department consider the Front to be in the top one percent of wildlife habitat in the U.S. The Front harbors one of the country's largest bighorn sheep herds and second largest elk herd. It also contains one of the largest populations of grizzlies south of Canada, including the only place where grizzlies still roam on the Great Plains. This productive ecosystem also includes 700 plant species, representing one third of Montana's flora.
Montanans have long supported and taken action to protect the Front, from the 1913 creation of the state's first game preserve (Sun River Game Preserve) to the 1972 creation of the nation's first citizen initiated Wilderness Area (Scapegoat Wilderness). More recently, an impressive collection of elected officials and local leaders have adamantly spoken out against allowing drilling here, including Senator Baucus (D-MT), the Lewis and Clark County Commissioners (this county covers the southern half of the Front), the mayor of Great Falls, the former Lewis and Clark National Forest Supervisor, and the former Montana BLM State Director. Polls, public comment opportunities, and newspaper editorials all show that the vast majority of Montanans want to see the Front protected from any natural gas drilling.
In 2003, the Forest Service conducted a public "scoping period" on a possible Travel Plan. In response, Montanans and Americans nation-wide overwhelmingly urged the Lewis and Clark National Forest to adopt a plan that favors traditional use, such as walking, hiking, and horseback riding.
An analysis done by the Coalition showed that over 7600 comments were received, the largest public response ever received by the Lewis and Clark National Forest, and more than 90 percent of Montanans urged the Forest Service to develop a new conservation-based plan while less than 2 percent of the respondents supported ORV use on the Rocky Mountain Front.
Last year, the federal government halted proposals to drill a portion of public lands along the Front after 99 percent of the 49,000 Montanans and other Americans overwhelmingly urged the government to protect the Front and stop the drilling proposal. The Coalition and other Montana leaders now are urging Congress to permanently protect the Front while fairly compensating leaseholders by offering a buy-out or swap for existing leases to put the issue to rest once and for all.
The impacts of the proposed travel plan will be significant the Front's wildlife, recreation, protecting private lands from illegal trespass, and checking the spread of noxious weeds.