West of Whitefish, state public lands of Spencer Mountain offer world-class outdoor recreation. But better get ready for a tussle to save the existing recreation on Spencer. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation was gracious to host an open house on the proposed timber cut for Spencer. It was good to see outdoors people involved in the civic duty of governance.
I did not hear much opposition to cut timber for fire mitigation. People comprehend a need for working landscapes and forest management. It was the timber prescription and inclusion of existing trails into the mitigation that was the topic amongst trail users.
Whitefish maintains respect for foresters at the agency, but agency-talk is confusingly astounding. Currently there are 27 miles of existing trail on Spencer, yet no clue on the miles to remain slash-free and open during and after the multi-year cut.
Cleaning up after oneself is not a complicated concept. The agency has a bad practice and stubborn streak of turning a blind eye to existing recreational management on public lands, rather appearing to ignore dispersed and existing recreation on public lands for valid $8-$10 permit holders.
Future use and any organized trail system in Spencer is a half-decade away, at best. Unless users continue to civically engage and assert that the 27 miles of existing trail remain open, the only certainty for dispersed recreation on Spencer, will be cleaning up trails of slash piles tall enough to sustain the state forest standard of a four-foot flame.
DNRC was good to recently expand the scope on Spencer to include existing recreation. The public should be assured via the environmental assessment process, the inclusion of mitigation strategies for existing trails and how many miles would remain open during and after the prescribed harvest.
Rep. Mike Jopek
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