LETTER: Move the Swan Crest Run

By Beacon Staff

As a local citizen I feel a strong need to voice my concerns about the proposed Swan Crest foot race. I am an avid runner who has completed many marathons and can completely understand the desire to establish a challenging local course in such a beautiful location as the Swan. However, I feel that setting up a race of this magnitude in such delicate and pristine grizzly habitat would be a selfish and irresponsible thing to do. I am concerned about this race for the following key reasons:

Running in grizzly bear habitat overnight during a 36-hour race promotes behavior that will contribute to the increasing number of injuries and fatalities due to runners surprising bears at close range. Bears are often then killed if they’ve mauled someone. Because of human encroachment grizzly bears have been pushed out of most states in the nation. It would be a travesty to see this happen in Montana, one of the last bastions for this beautiful animal. This race could mean one more “nail in the coffin” for the sanctity of grizzly bear habitat.

A race through U.S. Forest Service recommended wilderness near Jewel Basin will frustrate wilderness designation by Congress. Races aren’t allowed in wilderness solitude and the Forest Service is required to protect the wilderness attributes and potential of this Broken Leg Mountain area.

The race will cause high-intensity uses of the Napa Point and Alpine 7 trail sections closed a year ago to motorcycles to reduce human impacts and reconnect grizzly bear core security areas fragmented by the trails. This includes the remote Bunker Creek Grizzly Area, where the Forest Plan prohibits the encouragement of human intrusions.

The 100-mile race proposal was preceded since 2000 by several shorter, single-day foot and mountain bike races along the southern portion of the Swan Crest. None received environmental review or public disclosure. This two-day race requires prior preparation of an Environmental Assessment to assess cumulative impacts and the likelihood it will be followed by similar permit requests for bike and motorcycle races.

I feel that the race should be moved to open Forest Service roads outside grizzly bear security core or trails outside occupied grizzly bear habitat. The Foys to Blacktail Trail or open roads in the Swan Valley both offer stunning views of the Swan and Mission Mountains. These locations would still provide challenging courses in beautiful countryside without encroaching on grizzly bear habitat or risking the lives of humans through bear habituation.

Jason Calder

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