Forest Service Releases Draft Decision on New Trail Project Near Whitefish

Taylor Hellroaring proposal would add 28 miles of new trail northwest of Whitefish

By Tristan Scott

The Tally Lake Ranger District of Flathead National Forest has released its draft decision notice, finding of no significant impact and updated environmental assessment on the Taylor Hellroaring Project, a proposal in the Whitefish Face area that would include 28 miles of new trails and forest-fire fuel reduction efforts.

Located northwest of Whitefish, the Whitefish Face area is located in the Whitefish Range, from Haskill Basin to Werner Peak. The Whitefish Face Working Group began meeting in May 2014 and submitted the proposal in March 2015.

The Taylor Hellroaring Project is the result of U.S. Forest Service personnel working with a local group of citizens seeking collaborative forest management in the Whitefish Face area. The group identified the need to treat vegetation in the area to increase resilience to insects and disease and to reduce the risk and severity of wildfires.

The trails would connect to the existing trails on Whitefish Mountain Resort and to the Whitefish Trail as well as to the network of trails to the north of the resort.

The group also identified a need to maintain and improve wildlife habitat and increase rust-resistant western white pine and whitebark pine. The proposal includes a variety of vegetation treatments, including regeneration harvest, partial harvest, understory fuel treatment and prescribed burning on about 1,884 acres.

Facilitating these vegetation treatments would be about five miles of a road system that could be developed, then closed and placed in stored status for future use. Portions of these roads would be trail routes, and approximately .74 miles of temporary roads would be built and then reclaimed following their use.

Along with the environmental considerations, the group wanted to design the project to provide a range of trail experiences for hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders. Therefore, the proposal also includes development of new trails and a new trailhead.

According to the proposal, the trail network would be a series of looping trails providing opportunities for progressively longer and more challenging excursions, with a layout allowing users to choose the length and challenge of their preference. This would ideally reduce user conflict, the proposal said.

With the release of the draft decision notice, the project enters a 45-day objection process during which individuals who previously provided comment may object to the activities in the selected alternative.

All of the information is available online at www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=50518, where members of the public can also find information about how to file a formal objection to the project.