Travel Plan Update

Travel Plan Update

McDonald, Jessica
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After much debate, the final public comment period on the Gallatin National Forest (GNF) travel plan has ended. Of the 11,000 comments received, over 8,000 opposed motorized use. The Forest Service will release its final decision this December, followed by a 45-day appeal period. Opposers can appeal a particular part of the plan, and if the Forest Service deems the appeal valid, it may adjust the plan. If not, opposers can sue.
Although this appeal process seems just, it has potential for misuse. Anyone who wants to keep the status quo can sue, and the new plan may not be adopted until the litigation is resolved. So while the Forest Service is charged with managing the GNF, the public has the power to keep the current default management plan in place as long as it’s willing to do battle in court.
Although some reports criticize the proposed travel plan as biased against motorized users, the Forest Service is not anti-recreation, it is just pro-forest. In addition to public opinion, an effective travel plan must reflect the forest’s carrying capacity—or the ability of elk, other wildlife, and vegetation to withstand use. Studies cited in the GNF Draft Environmental Impact Statement show that substantial habitat reductions occur near open roads, and one of the major factors influencing elk habitat is motorized access. Thus any attempt to restrict access is not the result of prejudice against certain types of use, but a reaction to what studies show the forest needs.
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