Opinion

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Letter

Pacific Northwest Trail Should be Moved

It must be moved further south for both the safety of the animals and the hikers

I have lived off and on in the Yaak/Troy community over the last 25 years; I currently split my time between our Yaak cabin and our home in Bozeman where I recently retired as a professor from Montana State University.

I am writing regarding the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) and its current location through critical griz habitat in the northern Yaak. I want to stress that I am in favor of the PNT and support its intention to foster “through-hiking” across northwest Montana; I simply cannot support the current route – it must be moved further south out of this griz habitat area for both the safety of the animals and the hikers. I offer the following reasons for my concern:

1) The high-volume through-hiker trail cannot bisect the Yaak’s core grizzly habitat. (Yaak has 25 grizzlies struggling to survive.) All available science shows these areas are vital to their survival. It’s unfair to place hikers and bears in the same very limited alpine habitat in the Yaak.

2) The economic opportunities for Libby need to be addressed, not just Eureka. The “Jonkel” route is an excellent way to address that and to provide a vital boost to the economic diversification efforts ongoing in Libby.

3) Time is of the essence. The current route is badly broken: it conflicts with Border Patrol security, driver and hiker safety on U.S. 37 and other paved roads currently used in the Yaak, and is prompting litigation affecting timber proposals (Black Ram).

Thank you for considering these concerns; I am grateful for those who value through-hiking and especially places like the Yaak, but I would imagine most if not all of those folks would not want to encroach on such a sensitive habitat for such a crucial population of grizzly bears.

Dr. David Henderson, board member
Yaak Valley Forest Council