Time for Transparency in Recreational Planning

I request that the FNF host an open house where district recreation staff can showcase planned activities, motorized and non-motorized

By Gordon Ash

The recent Flathead Beacon article, “Cabins in the Woods Raise Conservation Concerns,” accurately portrayed recreation issues on the Flathead National Forest (FNF) with the focus on permanent rental cabin installation. It is time to address a range of recreational activities and resulting potential impacts.

This article summarized my own thoughts that started this spring with the illegal helicopter landing at Black Bear on the South Fork of the Flathead in wilderness resulting in minimal accountability. FNF has gone further: allowing wide open riverside camping in the Flathead Wild and Scenic Corridor at Blankenship Bridge; accepting motorized commercial outfitting applications across the FNF; and culminating with a proposal establishing not just four permanent rental cabins, but a planned 29 cabins in pods across Spotted Bear Ranger District (SBRD). I believe it is time to engage the public in a review of what planned FNF recreation development will look like. In addressing cabin development, did SBRD or FNF outreach to business entrepreneurs such as adventure-based glamping? There was an indication the Swan Lake Ranger District was going to host a collaborative review for the Krause Basin portion of the Swan Range, but to date no information has been forthcoming.

I request that the FNF host an open house where district recreation staff can showcase planned activities, motorized and non-motorized. Staff will update users on the Flathead River Wild and Scenic River Plan that has been on hold for a year or more. Other elements I would like addressed and displayed at an open house would include:

• Show FNF dispersal of Great American Outdoor Act funding.

• What is the level of deferred maintenance currently necessary for motorized and non-motorized trails, and developed recreation infrastructure?

• What was the recreation budget breakout for 2021; what is proposed for 2022; what are the carry over dollars (if any) for the FNF recreation program?

• What is the current outfitter and guide program in wilderness and non-wilderness for the Hungry Horse and SBRD’s?

• A summary of law enforcement actions relating to outfitting and recreational activities across FNF. The summary would include the number of law enforcement personnel and time committed across FNF.

As stated in the article, Sarah Lundstrum with the National Parks Conservation Association, “We are not opposed to recreational development, and in fact support appropriate development in appropriate places as long as there’s transparency about what’s being proposed”. 

It is time for a clear display of recreational planning by the FNF. 

Gordon Ash

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