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No Objections to Winter Travel Plan? That’s a First

PHOTO: The Blackfoot-North Divide Winter Travel Plan has been adopted, after the appeals window closed without a single appeal filed. Photo courtesy of U.S. National Forest Service
PHOTO: The Blackfoot-North Divide Winter Travel Plan has been adopted, after the appeals window closed without a single appeal filed. Photo courtesy of U.S. National Forest Service
November 20, 2013

LINCOLN, Mont. - Everyone likes it, and that's a first. The Blackfoot-North Divide Winter Travel Plan has been adopted, after the appeals window closed without a single appeal filed.

The plan guides winter activities and trail use on more than 250,000 acres - a favorite play area that is important to businesses in Lincoln.

John Gatchell, who negotiated on behalf of the Montana Wilderness Association, said his group sat down with snowmobile groups and other stakeholders to design the plan.

"We never agreed on anything before and never really dealt with each other," he said, "except that we'd show up at hearings on opposite sides."

Winter use can impact wildlife, Gatchell said, so biologists and other experts explained what wildlife needed and the plan was written around those facts. Initial negotiations began in 2004.

About 250 miles of snowmobile trails are guaranteed for use, Gatchell said, along with other winter recreation.

"Everybody can take pride in the fact that we're not only providing really great winter recreation, whether you're a skier, snowshoer or avid snowmobiler, but we're also protecting life that has to go through the neck of the hourglass in winter," he said.

Mountain goats, grizzly bears, wolverine and lynx live in the forest near Lincoln and along the Continental Divide.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT