Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bikers, hikers reach deal on Bob Marshall expansion and access

Helenair.com - Full Article

ROB CHANEY rchaney@missoulian.com
December 20 2016

MISSOULA -- Mountain bikers and wilderness advocates have forged an agreement that could create a new riding area on the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness while advancing an 80,000-acre expansion of nonmechanized public land.

The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project and International Mountain Bike Association committed to supporting each other’s wishes on what could become a stand-alone wilderness bill going before Congress next year. The deal modifies a wilderness proposal first introduced as part of Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act in 2009.

It extends the southwestern edge of the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat wildernesses from the mountain ridgelines into the lower drainages where much of the area’s wildlife habitat and travel corridors exist.

“This compromise was more difficult than anything I remember,” said Lee Bowman, a BCSP steering committee member with the Montana Wilderness Association. “What really impressed me was how respectful the mountain bikers were of the horsemen’s issues. The horsemen weren’t in favor of this, but eventually they decided it was better for all. Nobody got everything they wanted. Everyone had to give up something.”

The 3,000-acre proposed mountain-biking recreation area extends along the Spread Creek drainage north of Ovando in a recommended wilderness area of the Lolo National Forest. Because the whole area remains in a management gray area regarding mechanized use, some mountain bikers had begun to chart routes along trails traditionally used by backcountry horse packers...

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