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  1. #1
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    Helena action alert

    The Helena Ranger District is working through the NEPA process on a project in the Helena area: the Tenmile-South Helena project. Late last year, they introduced an additional alternative to the planning process, Alternative 4. This one is a good idea since it includes some recreation planning, including some significant new trail corridors. The district has re-opened comment on Alternative 4 between 3/6 and 3/20. They are only accepting comments on non-motorized trails. This is the most specific trail-related comment opportunity I've seen here, and our comments (or lack of) will have a direct impact on what we're able to ride in the near future.

    The short version is that a small but organized and vocal group of hunters and anglers are pushing back on the trail development. They're in favor of limiting trails to old road corridors, rather than new alignments. The Colorado Mountain trail with the proposed closure date is an awesome fall ride. The 8/31 closure date is more about archery season than elk security. And maybe the biggest, but most subtle, change is the line limiting bicycles to designated system roads and trails. That needs to go. If the draft forest plan's suggested special recreation area around Helena comes through, I'd consider supporting that. But I don't see any reason to limit bikes to system routes with no other change in management.

    The project page is here. There is an Opportunity to Comment and description of the specific changes made to Alternative 4 here. And there is a map of the trails here.

    Here's how to comment:

    Helena action alert-hrd_tsh_comment.jpg

  2. #2
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    If i'm reading this correctly, the proposal is open to new trails but the small/vocal group wants that part removed?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by fleboz View Post
    If i'm reading this correctly, the proposal is open to new trails but the small/vocal group wants that part removed?
    Not removed necessarily, but pushed into locations that aren't as favorable for recreation (hikers or bikers). For example, staying on road corridors, rather than new singletrack alignment. Or along an old ditch alignment, rather than along a ridgeline. And at the same time adding a line limiting bicycles to designated system routes. That's the most insidious part, because half the 'new' trails proposed in this project are existing non-system trails that people have been using for years.

  4. #4
    rth009
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    What exactly do you want us to say?

    That we oppose "limiting bicycles to designated system roads and trails." Anything else?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by rth009 View Post
    What exactly do you want us to say?

    That we oppose "limiting bicycles to designated system roads and trails." Anything else?
    That's the big one.

    Comments on the nonmotorized trail system proposed are very important. The bulk of the comments received by the District are generally from wildlife advocates who are organized, motivated, and concerned about the impact of any recreation on USFS lands, and of mountain biking in particular. Therefore, it is imperative that the recreation community step up and tell the USFS that we strongly support expanding our nonmotorized trail network. The Montana Bicycle Guild has provided several talking points below. The most impactful comments will describe how important recreating on USFS lands is to you, and incorporate the thoughts below in your own words. Cut-and-paste comments don't carry much weight in the NEPA process.

    • We strongly support expansion of the nonmotorized trail network in the Tenmile-South Helena area. Nonmotorized recreation is an increasingly important aspect of Helena’s culture and economy, and the existing system is in need of expansion to accommodate it.

    • We strongly oppose the restriction of bicycles to designated system routes. This is at odds with travel policies elsewhere in the Forest, effectively creating a new management district, and a new class of regulated activity. There are many non-system routes in the project area with long histories of use by hikers, hunters, anglers, equestrians, and cyclists. Such a major and discontinuous change should not be folded into a fuels treatment project.

    • We do not oppose seasonal closures where appropriate. However, as closures are a means to protect wildlife, those closures should apply to all user groups. Closing the Colorado Mountain area to bicycles after August 31st does not protect wildlife. It is a recreation decision prioritizing other recreation uses over cycling. MBG opposes the currently proposed closure date which is too early and improperly limited to bicycles.

    Those are the major points. The other things for riders with local knowledge to consider are changes in alignment to some of the proposed trails. They moved Trail B from a ridgeline to an old flume. The flume could be kind of cool, but I think a ridgeline would be nicer. And they moved the Brooklyn Bridge trail (Trail E) to the north side of Skihi Peak, but that build will be difficult and expensive due to all the boulder fields. That alignment was considered and not chosen for that reason. We're willing to re-evaluate it, but want the potential to bring it back to the south of Skihi Peak, but passing below the identified elk security area.
    Last edited by evasive; 03-10-2017 at 02:14 PM. Reason: edited to reflect updated talking points

  6. #6
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    Thank you for posting this.
    Casey Greene - President, Board of Directors - Bikepacking Roots
    bikepackingroots.org

  7. #7
    rth009
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    Agreed. I submitted my comments.

  8. #8
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    done. thanks evasive!

  9. #9
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    Thanks for the heads up!

  10. #10
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    Thanks, guys. For Helena-area riders, we're having a brief Q&A to go over the proposals up for comment this evening (Wednesday). 6:00 at The Garage.

  11. #11
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    Working on a comment. The talking points here are excellent. Thanks for explaining the situation.
    I don't know what trail we're on, but at least it's getting dark

  12. #12
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    just received an emails from the forest service, they are extending the comment section. the email is below.

    The comment period for the Tenmile – South Helena Alternative 4 - Non-motorized Trail System proposal has been extended to March 22, 2017.

    A map and description of the Non-motorized Trail System proposal as well as additional Alternative 4 information can be reviewed in the attached documents and on the Helena – Lewis & Clark National Forest website at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=45725

    Comments can be submitted by e-mail, fax, mail, or hand delivery to the following addresses:

    E-mail*: comments-northern-helena-helena@fs.fed.us
    *Please include “TSH” in the subject line.

    Fax: 406-449-5436

    Mail and Hand Delivery:
    Helena District Ranger
    ATTN: TSH.
    2880 Skyway Drive,
    Helena MT, 59602

    Additionally, an update to the Tenmile – South Helena project website has recently occurred that resulted in changing the appearance and layout of documents. Before the update, all documents appeared on the same website page. To locate documents on the updated project website, click on the Tabs (Scoping, Analysis, or Supporting). Documents for the Alternative 4 Non-motorized Trail System Proposal are located under the “Supporting” tab and are labeled:

    • (March 6, 2017) - TSH Alternative 4 Opportunity to Comment on the Proposed Non-motorized Trail System (pdf)
    • (March 6, 2017) - TSH Alternative 4 Proposed Non-motorized Trail System Map

    For questions please contact the Helena Ranger District at: (406) 449-5201.

  13. #13
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    I now can't locate the map online. Seems HLCNF has taken it down prematurely. I wanted to restudy the SkiHi Peak portion of the trail proposal. It looks like extraordinarily difficult terrain to put a trail in no matter what the alignment. At any rate, the bottom line looks like one group not wanting to share, and conspiring to muddle up a good plan.
    I don't know what trail we're on, but at least it's getting dark

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregB406 View Post
    I now can't locate the map online. Seems HLCNF has taken it down prematurely. I wanted to restudy the SkiHi Peak portion of the trail proposal. It looks like extraordinarily difficult terrain to put a trail in no matter what the alignment. At any rate, the bottom line looks like one group not wanting to share, and conspiring to muddle up a good plan.
    It's still there. They split the project page into different tabs. Look under the "Supporting" tab. The original Alternative 4 trails are on the map dated 11-15-16. That alignment wouldn't be that bad to build, especially if you used the hillside to the west above Cox Lake on the lower end - I've hiked it the whole way from the lake to the road.

    https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=45725

    Here's the current map:
    http://a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558...T3_3963083.pdf

  15. #15
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    Thanks for the link, but when it's opened all that is there are scoping letters. At least now I can view the Alt 4 map. Yes it would be great to compare to the previous map, but I've been trying to locate that map for an hour with no luck.
    I don't know what trail we're on, but at least it's getting dark

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregB406 View Post
    Thanks for the link, but when it's opened all that is there are scoping letters. At least now I can view the Alt 4 map. Yes it would be great to compare to the previous map, but I've been trying to locate that map for an hour with no luck.
    Can you see the "Supporting" tab on your browser? Those links are under it.

    Helena action alert-noname1.jpg

    Here's the link to the original Alternative 4 trail/road closure map:
    http://a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558...T3_3906125.pdf

  17. #17
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    OK I'm an idiot at times. I finally found the tabs. Those shaded headers didn't appear as the type of tabs I'm used to seeing, so I was blind to them.
    I don't know what trail we're on, but at least it's getting dark

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