On November 20, 2004 I attended a Sit In on the Rock Creek Road 35 miles south of Livingston. The purpose of the Sit In was to draw attention to the closure of this snowmobile area by the Forest Service. No the Forest Service did not shut down the riding area, they only took away any parking at the trailhead. This is the access to Buffalo Horn Portal Creek.
Why? Because a certain landowner has been complaining about snowmobilers for the past few years and the area that they used for parking. The funny thing is, this property owner doesn’t own the land where snowmobilers and skiers parked. That’s right, he didn’t even own the property in question. So, now with the sale of the land and new property owners on the way, the Forest Service has elected to no longer allow parking. In fact, since this area is one of the riding areas that would be closed if Alternative 7 of the Gallatin National Forest Travel Plan goes through, the Forest Service seems to be unwilling to even look for alternative parking solutions. Also, for safety reasons, the Forest Service will ticket anyone utilizing the 20-foot right-of-away along the road. As you can see by the pictures, parking is not going to be a problem on this seldom used road.┬á
It would be no different than a hunter who parks along the road to walk his favorite area.
The Big Sky Snowriders of Livingston were informed approximately 5 weeks ago that this closure would be happening and that any grooming operations would be discontinued. If you know anything of MEPA and such, you would know that this is not enough time to look at alternative routes or parking for the upcoming riding season. *See footnote at bottom.Be aware that this is the ONLY access to some 20 thousand acres of pristine riding from the Livingston side. In fact it is the ONLY way into this riding area. What better way to start a closure than to prohibit any type of parking on this route? Why should ONE landowner gain a “Backyard Winter Wilderness” just because he doesn’t like to share? Is this really sound management by our Public Servants working in the Forest Service?
I believe that our Forest Service needs to recognize the needs of ALL users of our Public Forests!!!! By mitigating conflicts between USER Groups and finding resolutions that suffice BOTH sides they are actually exercising their managerial duties. But by shutting out one group just to appease another or ONE INDIVIDUAL LANDOWNER, these Forest Service Managers are only proving how inept they are for the positions they hold. This type of closure is proof that to solve a conflict it is easier to get rid of one of the conflicting side’s type of management that is being utilized in the Gallatin National Forest today.┬á
Some 30 snowmobilers showed up to this sit in hoping to tell anyone who passed by of the inequities the snowmobiling community was receiving from the Gallatin National Forest. But they were also informing anyone and everyone of the upcoming Rally that will be held at the Bozeman County Courthouse on December 11, 2004 from noon-2 p.m. in protest of the Gallatin National Forest Travel Plan. This Travel Plan should be out for comments sometime in January. Senators’ Baucus and Burns, Representative Rehberg and the Governors office have all been contacted on this horrendous Travel Plan Package. Some of these representatives’ offices have said they will ask for an extended comment period and have said they will contact the Agricultural Department on this matter. Whatever the case, we as snowmobilers have to stand together on this one. We have to write in our comments and attend as many Rallies’ and meetings to show that we are united in keeping our Public Lands open to our Recreational Needs.┬á
This Travel Plan package has also created a New user group: Citizens For Balanced Use, http://www.citizensforbalanceduse.com/. This group is the one putting on the Rally on December 11th and has been very busy informing the above mentioned representative offices. Check out their website and join it for free so you can stay up on all the news items for this Travel Plan.┬á
I encourage you to join me in attending this Rally and if you get a chance, to ride the Rock Creek Area this snowmobile season. It may give you something to write about during the comment period.┬á
*Since I wrote this story the Forest Service has let a plowing permit to the landowners on this road with the snow being plowed to the side but not to include the right-of-way. This eliminates snowmobiling along the road about 1.3 miles so as to get to this great riding area. The Forest Service REFUSES to even LOOK for alternatives to allow snowmobiling to continue. Again, management made easy by getting rid of one of the users. I know many of the landowners on this road would not have a problem sharing our public land with ALL users. But instead, the Forest Service has elected to quite one landowner so he can turn his 20 acres into thousands of privately used acres. At the expense of us other taxpayers.┬á
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