Outdoors

Flathead Forest Seeks Input on Trail Races, Outfitter Permits

Proposed events include Whitefish Trail Legacy Run 50K and Foy’s to Blacktail Trail Marathon

Flathead National Forest officials are requesting public input on a dozen permits authorizing a suite of proposed races and other events on public lands this summer and fall, including two long-distance trail running races as well as several guiding and outfitter services that require permitted approval to operate.

If issued, the temporary permits would authorize the recreation events and outfitting and guiding activities across the forest from June 1 through Oct. 31.

All proposed events and activities would adhere to guidelines set forth by state and local public health authorities related to the COVID-19 pandemic, forest officials said. The recreation events include the Whitefish Trail Legacy Run 50K Ultramarathon, the Foy’s to Blacktail Trail Marathon, the Powdered Soul Fun Bike Ride, and the Kiwanis ATV & Motorbike Fun Run.

The temporary outfitting and guiding permit requests include Whitefish Shuttle Livery and Guided Services; Whitefish Bike Retreat Livery; Journey to Wellness Program; Northwest Adventure Sports Guided ATV Tours; and Spotted Dog, Adventure Cycling and Cycle House Bike Tours. All proposed activities would take place in part on Forest System roads and trails.

Both the Whitefish Trail 50K and the Foy’s to Blacktail Trail Marathon are recurring events entering their second and third years, respectively. Both marathons would take place in management area 7, which is identified in the forest plan as a focused recreation area.

According to Whitefish Legacy Partners, the 50K would mirror last year’s course and track along approximately 14 miles of existing National Forest System (NFS) roads and trails within the Whitefish Mountain Resort permit boundary. Part of the run occurs off forest jurisdiction. The permit would allow for up to 400 participants and the race would take place entirely in one day in October.

The Foy’s to Blacktail Trail Marathon permit would allow for up to 100 participants to run on 13 miles of existing roads and trails within and surrounding the Blacktail Mountain Resort area, as well as on adjacent land not requiring a permit.

Forest officials say both races fall into a category excluding either from an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement, although a conservation group has raised concerns about the events increasing risk to both humans and bears in grizzly habitat.

Keith Hammer, chair of the Swan View Coalition, has asked forest officials to extend the public comment period beyond the May 1 deadline, citing a lack of planning details available on the Flathead National Forest website. Hammer also said the fluid dynamic of COVID-19 restrictions and the cancellation of summertime events related to the public health emergency demand additional consideration.

“We find your request for public comment on these group event and guiding proposals to be premature and rushed,” Hammer wrote in an email to forest officials. “Our nation is just now engaging in a discussion of how best to safely relax COVID-19 restrictions and public health experts are warning that it will be quite a while before things return to ‘normal’ — and that the new normal may not be what it was before.”

Other events for which the Forest must consider for permitted uses include the Powdered Soul Fun Bike Ride Event, which organizers billed as a fun bike ride event on the Tally Lake Ranger District. The route would consist of various system roads and trails in the Reid Divide area, would be held in a single day in August and includes up to 200 participants.

The Kiwanis Club is also requesting a permit for an ATV and motorbike fun run on system roads and trails on the Tally Lake Ranger District. The event would be held in one day in July and involve up to 40 participants. The event would begin and end off National Forest. No aid stations will be set up on the Flathead National Forest.

Kurt Schram, co-owner and operator of Whitefish Shuttle is pictured by his large passenger van and bike rack trailer in Whitefish on May 16, 2019. Whitefish shuttle transports hikers and bikers into Glacier National Park, with pick-up locations in Kalispell, Whitefish and Columbia Falls.
Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Outfitters and guiding services requesting temporary permits include:

Whitefish Shuttle Livery and Guided Tours

Whitefish Shuttle is requesting a permit to provide guided day-use van tours, biking, and hiking on U.S. Forest Service system roads and trails in the North Fork area of the Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger District and west of U.S. Highway 93 on the Tally Lake Ranger District. The permit would allow for shuttle services and guided van tours, biking, and hiking and between June 1 and Oct. 31.

Whitefish Bike Retreat Livery

Whitefish Bike Retreat is requesting a permit to provide shuttle services for biking. The permits would allow for shuttle services between June 1 and Oct. 31.

Journey to Wellness Program

Summit Health Club is requesting a permit to provide guided day hikes under the Journey to Wellness program. Various trails would be approved on various open Forest system trails on the Tally Lake and Swan Lake Ranger District. The permit would allow for guided hikes from June 1 until Oct. 31.

Northwest Adventure Sports Guided ATV Tours

Northwest Adventure Sports is requesting a permit to provide guided ATV tours on various open motorized system roads on the Tally Lake and Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger Districts. The permit would allow for guided trips from June 1 until Oct. 31.

Action Rentals ATV Tours

Action Rentals is requesting a permit to provide guided ATV tours on the Martin Creek Road NFSR 910 and Martin Falls on the Tally Lake Ranger District. The permit would allow for guided trips from June 1 until Oct. 31.

To submit comments and questions:

For questions about the Whitefish Trail 50K Ultramarathon, Powdered Soul Fun Bike Ride, Whitefish Shuttle Livery and Guiding, Whitefish Bike Retreat Livery, Journey to Wellness Program, Northwest Adventure Sports Guided ATV Tours, Action Rentals ATV Tours, and Kiwanis ATV & Motorbike Fun Run, contact Julie Gerrior at 758-3542 or julie.gerrior@usda.gov. Comments can be sent to comments-northern-flathead-tally-lake@usda.gov.

The responsible official for the proposals on the Tally Lake District is District Ranger Bill Mulholland. The responsible official for the proposals on the Swan Lake Ranger District is District Ranger Chris Dowling. The responsible official for the above projects on the Hungry Horse-Glacier View Ranger District is District Ranger Rob Davies.

For questions on the Foy’s to Blacktail Trail Marathon, contact Beth Pargman at (406) 837-7515 or beth.pargman@usda.gov. Comments can be sent to comments-northern-flatheadswan-lake@usda.gov. The responsible official for this project is Swan Lake District Ranger Chris Dowling.

For questions on the guided bike tours, contact Sean Cranmer at (406) 758-5227 or sean.m.cranmer@usda.gov. Comments can be sent to comments-northernflathead-hungry-horse-glacier-view@usda.gov. The responsible official for this project is Hungry Horse-Glacier View District Ranger Robert Davies.

If you enjoy stories like this one, please consider joining the Flathead Beacon Editor’s Club. For as little as $5 per month, Editor’s Club members support independent local journalism and earn a pipeline to Beacon journalists. Members also gain access to www.beaconeditorsclub.com, where they will find exclusive content like deep dives into our biggest stories and a behind-the-scenes look at our newsroom.