ALERT: Gallatin National Forest Travel Plan

SAWS Action Alert

Comments must be received by May 13, 2005


The Gallatin National Forest (GNF) Travel Plan EIS is complete. There are 7 Alternatives to look at and the Forest Service (FS) has chosen Alternative 7 as their Preferred Alternative. SAWS is recommending that you write your comments stating that you cannot and will not support any alternative that closes areas to snowmobiling without a valid reason. Tell the FS that you support no net loss in riding areas.

Here is what Alternative 7 does for usÔǪ..or rather what it shuts down to motorized recreation:┬á

  1. 356,000 acres closed to snowmobiles. 62% reduction in OFF-TRAIL riding.
  2. Increased groomed trails-8%. Increased marked trails-48%. But do not get OFF the trails.
  3. 41% reduction in summer use trails.
  4. 9% increase of groomed cross-country trails. 16% increase in marked trails.

Other items of concern lie within the Travel Plan Amendment itself: 

  1. The FS will no longer be required to investigate any areas for expansion of motorized use in the future. No trail maintenance, any new trails or trail heads and no communication with local clubs to expand areas of over use. The only option they give themselves is to shut down more area.
  2. The FS will no longer have to do Economic Impact Reviews as part of their EIS in future Travel Plan planning!
  3. The FS will no longer include Recreational Opportunities in future EIS studies for Travel Plan Purposes Animals take precedence and the areas will be managed for animals that don’t even exist there yet!
  4. Snowmobiles will be considered the same as WHEELED vehicles for Travel Restrictions. Right now they are not included in that language.

Your comments should state that you do not support ANY of the offered Alternatives.  Alternative 1 is being used as a baseline for the other Alternatives, and we are told it will not be considered.  Alternatives 2-7 remove snowmobiling from far too many acres. If the FS wants to remove this much terrain, then they need to provide an equal amount somewhere else.

The Montana Snowmobile Association, Gallatin Valley Snowmobile Association and the Great Falls Snowmobile Club are also supporting this type of comment.┬á We also recommend that you courtesy copy your comments to your local Congressional representative’s offices to let them know that the motorized community cannot support any of the alternatives due to losing so much land for our recreation.┬á

Right now, Citizens for Balanced Use are working on their own alternative to submit to the Forest Service.  This is a full scale alternative which will include   Biological Studies, trail by trail studies and pertinent pictures of the areas.  I have been told that it will recommend NO LOSSES for the snowmobile community.  You can make your comments on this Action Alert and we urge you to make more than one comment.  A CBU proposed alternative will be forthcoming.

I attended one of the open houses in Bozeman this past week and was left with the impression that it was a BIG selling show for the preferred alternative. The FS was asking everyone to write their comments in on Alternative 7 and changes could be made on site/trail specific remarks if the FS Supervisor deemed it was necessary to honor those comments. My fear is that if we all comment on Alternative 7, the FS will claim that the majority of the comments came in supporting Alternative 7 and thus we will be left with the largest single closure plan in Montana history.

Points that may help in your comments: 

  1. In the Travel Management Planning Supervisor’s Letter it states that there is a growth in recreation, but the greatest restrictions have been placed on motorized activities, especially areas for snowmobiles. A prime example of why Alternative 7 is unsupportable is the Bridgers area.┬á Areas have been left open in Alternative 7 where elk actually winter. What kind of set up do you think this will lead to down the road?
  2. The 2001 OHV rule that eliminated the use of ATVÔÇÖs on single-track trails┬á will be included in Alternative 1, as it┬á is already in effect
  3. Wilderness study areas need to be maintained at uses prior to 1977 in this area. Snowmobiling in the Rock Creek and Hyalite areas has been going on since 1968. I met people with pictures of riding snowmobiles in this area between 1968-1976.
  4. The Grizzly Bear population has grown significantly under our current Travel Plan. In fact, the Grizzly Bear is being considered for removal from the Endangered Species list. So why do we have to create even more non-motorized areas for Grizzly Bear recovery when their numbers continue to grow?
  5. The Lynx study and Wolverine studies have proven no ill effects on these two animals at present. These species are migratory and are hard to track and are very seldom seen in the areas we snowmobile.
  6. The need to fix unacceptable resource damage. The study done by the FS with photo’s and GPS coordinates was not incorporated into this EIS. Why? Because the damage that was found was negligible for the amount of acres that were studied. The working group decided not to use this information due to it giving more support to the motorized community. In other words they didn’t want everyone to know that the resource damage found was insignificant.
  7. The FS claims they do not have the funds for trail maintenance and trail building. At the same time the FS refuses to work with local motorized groups to do just that for free!!!! Take Rock Creek for instance; a landowner complained about parking, so the Big Sky Snowriders volunteered to make a new parking lot with volunteer labor and are told no.
  8. This plan needs a more in-depth Economic Impact Study. The one that is used at present is one of the weakest we have seen to date in Montana.
  9. If there is this much area removed from snowmobiling opportunities, there should be another like area added to meet the needs of a growing recreational sport. Alternatives 2 – 7 create de-facto wilderness and set motorized recreation for more closures in the future due to resource damage occurring from overuse (the majority of recreationalists recreating on a minimal amount of Public Land).

If there are site/trail specific areas that you want to stay open, use these in your comments as well to show you have historically used these areas and do not want to lose them. 

Send your comments by May 13, 2005 to:

      Gallatin National Forest
      Attn: Marna Daley
      PO Box 130
      Bozeman, MT 59771

      Fax: (406) 587-6758

Craig Osterman
Snowmobile Alliance of Western States

Copyright ┬® 2005 Snowmobile Alliance of Western States. All Rights Reserved.

Permission is granted to distribute this information in whole or in part, as long as Snowmobile Alliance of Western States (SAWS) is acknowledged as the source. If you are not yet a member of SAWS and you would like receive these alerts, please sign up on our web site at