As Forest Plan Infolds, a Mountain Bike-wilderness Debate Emerges

Taking in the view from a chair at Thoma Lookout in this file photo. There’s a significant debate on whether mountain biking should be allowed in the upper Whitefish Range, on trails like the one that go to Thoma.

The Hungry Horse News says… As the Flathead National Forest puts the finishing touches on a final Forest plan, one issue is rising to the forefront: Should bicycle use be allowed in areas that are recommended wilderness? Central to the debate is proposed wilderness in the North Fork. Under alternative B in the draft plan, there’s about 80,000 acres of recommended wilderness in the plan in the upper end of the Whitefish Range north of Red Meadow Creek. Recommended wilderness is generally managed as wilderness, but under alternative B, the plan would allow continued mountain bike use in the region. Read the full article here.

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Supporters applaud proposed noxious weed program

Daniel Cook, a University of Montana student and assistant with the distortion of weevils on invasive yellow toadflax in the Elkhorn Mountains, gently shakes the bugs from a paper towel on Friday, July 8, 2016. Photo by Adam McCaw, Independent Record

The Missoulian reports that a  bill that could pump more than $2 million annually into the fight against noxious weeds in wildlife habitat drew unanimous support from weed managers, wildlife managers and conservation and livestock groups Tuesday.

House Bill 434, known as the Montana Wildlife Habitat Improvement Act and brought by Rep. Kelly Flynn, R-Townsend, creates a new grant program and advisory council administered by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Under the act, the Legislature could appropriate up to $2 million to weed control from funding the state receives through the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act, a federal excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition.

Read the full story here.

North Forker Breaks Hip on Ice

Irv going into Alert by Chris HeitzIn his Hungry Horse News column this week, Larry tells the tale of Irv Heitz breaking his hip on the ice. It begins with a typical North Fork road story… I drove the full length of the North Fork Road last Tuesday. Headed up from Columbia Falls at 8 a.m. and had lunch at a neighbors and came back to town by 3:30 p.m. It was a perfect trip. Blue sky and bright sunshine. Temperature was 8 degrees when I started and the winter paving was perfect. As I drove I could see that there was a lot of ice on the snow-packed road and thought it wouldn’t take much to turn the road really nasty. I was not wrong. As the week progressed the weather warmed into the 40-degree range. Read his full column here.

And Irv, our thoughts are with you during your recovery.

The Camping Crunch

The Flathead Beacon reports that summer is still a few months away, but prospective campers will be making plans sooner than later. In Montana’s second most popular county for visitors, landing a camping spot in Glacier National Park or at the many other state and federal sites has become a difficult task, particularly in the bustling summer months. According to the latest state tourism data, 36 percent of the record 12.33 million visitors to Montana in 2016 — roughly 4.4 million people — went camping. Glacier County, which spans this corner of Montana, attracted the largest percentage of those campers at 40 percent, followed by Yellowstone Country at 32 percent, according to the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research. Read the full story here.