The Glacier-Two Medicine Alliance is joining the Forest Service to defend a plan limiting offroad vehicle damage to the Lewis and Clark National Forest. The travel plan protects wildlife, emphasizes traditional uses and access, and is based on years of extensive public comment.
On Friday, the group’s members filed for intervener status, allowing them to participate in a legal challenge brought by off-road vehicle and dirt bike users. The Glacier-Two Medicine alliance, whose members include local land owners and residents, Blackfeet Tribal members, and business owners along the Rocky Mountain Front, is represented by Earthjustice.
“It’s just wrong to let a small group of motorized users force the Forest Service to throw this plan out,” said Hugo Johnson, a long-time local outfitter. “I am 72 years old and I get in to the Badger-Two Medicine backcountry on my horse and have for over 40 years. I’ve seen the damage that motorized use has caused to the soil, water, and wildlife. Rather than fighting this decision in court we need our agency experts to concentrate on the important thing here — letting the land heal after years and years of damage.”
Johnson added, “Motorized use has its place, including over 700 miles of established motorized trail in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. But we need to protect the Badger-Two Medicine, which has some of the best pack and saddle country and hunting and fishing opportunities in Montana.”
“The public enjoys ample non-motorized access to this spectacular landscape on the border of Glacier National Park. We will oppose efforts to re-introduce the noise and disruption of motorized off-road vehicles to this area,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso.
“Someone needs to stand up and point out that the public record clearly shows the Forest Service made the right decision,” said Lou Bruno a founder of the Alliance. “The Forest Service based its decision on sound science and a decade of public input, which clearly spelled out this area is special and needs appropriate protection.”
In 2002, 2003, and again in 2005 the Forest Service solicited public comments on the travel planning process for the Rocky Mountain Front and the Badger-Two Medicine area. Each time, Montanans overwhelmingly urged the Lewis and Clark National Forest to adopt a plan that favors traditional use, such as walking, hiking, and horseback riding.
For example, during the 2002 “scoping period,” a clear majority, 90 percent of Montanans who commented, wrote to the Forest Service asking the agency to develop a conservation-based plan. A later 2005 analysis of public comments on the proposed Front Travel Plan alternatives showed again that the majority of Montanans, favored quiet recreation activities such as horse packing or hiking along the Rocky Mountain Front.
In light of public will, the Alliance believes the time and resources of the Forest Service are needed to help the landscape heal after decades of abuse, not address legal challenges.