Developed campgrounds, restroom facilities, rental cabins and lookouts have been closed on both Flathead and Kootenai National Forest land as U.S. Forest Service officials respond to escalating public health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Flathead National Forest, 15 rental cabins have been closed indefinitely for the health and safety of visitors and staff, according to forest officials. Developed campgrounds and most restroom facilities are closed on both the Flathead and Kootenai National Forests.
The closures will not impact other Kootenai or Flathead National Forest trailheads, recreation areas, dispersed camping sites, or lake access sites, which remain open at this time. However, toilets located at these areas will be closed, based on guidelines and recommendations for cleaning public facilities by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Forest supervisors remind the public that emergency response personnel, as well as rescue operations, is limited due to coronavirus-related issues, and high-risk activities that increase the chance of injuries should be avoided.
“We want the public to know that the forest is still open,” Kootenai Forest Supervisor Chad Benson said in a statement. “We want people to get outside, stretch their legs, and stay active during these stressful times. Please make sure that you’re recreating responsibly which includes social distancing measures.”
Notifications to cabin renters will be made as soon as possible and refunds will be processed. Reservation holders will be notified via email and/or cell phone text messages if there are any changes affecting their reservation.
“As we work through an unpredictable and rapidly changing situation, health and safety is our number one priority,” according to a statement from the Flathead National Forest. “We are committed to continuing to support our communities and fulfill our mission as we all work together to minimize the impacts and spread of COVID-19.”
“With increased pressure on these developed sites and staffing challenges it has become very difficult to manage areas so they’re safe for visitors and our employees,” Benson stated. “It has become clear that the best course of action is to close these sites until it’s deemed safe to reopen them. This was a difficult decision that we didn’t make lightly and we appreciate people’s cooperation. We’re in this together.”