The governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council recently met in Libby, and the proposed Pacific Northwest Scenic Trail in the Upper Yaak caused me some concerns. I worked in Libby for 38 years, from when logging was king, to when it was severely curtailed through court decisions.
The PNT will essentially be a “strip” of Wilderness through the Yaak, with associated restrictions including scenic preservation a half mile on either side of the trail. This is already affecting the U.S. Forest Service Black Ram Project.
Worse yet, with increased use of the trail, further restrictions will happen. Grizzly expert Wayne Kasworm observed at the Advisory Council that road closures could then be required to offset the use of this trail, due to it going 27 miles through Core Grizzly Habitat. Current court decisions limit the miles of open roads and trails, and the current route could close an associated 27 miles of open roads. We know the PNT will be used in court actions.
Are we all going to say nothing and just let more restrictions on forest management and road access in the Yaak? Why not look at alternatives that are less restrictive? There is a proposed southern route with only seven miles in Core Habitat. Whether we like it or not, grizzlies are legally required to be protected, and how will this affect them?
We should be aware of the legal effects of the Pacific Northwest Scenic Trail in the Yaak, and more forest restrictions to come.
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