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Press Releases

Win for Wildlife and Quiet Use on Bitterroot National Forest

August 15, 2018
Marla Fox, WildEarth Guardians, 651-434-7737, mfox@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Public Lands  
Hamilton, MT—Last week, Federal District Court Judge Dana Christensen issued an order clarifying that his previous June 29, 2018 order does not lift restrictions on mountain bike use in the Bitterroot National Forest’s Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs).

Judge Christensen’s June 29, 2018 order in large part rejected a challenge to the Bitterroot Travel Plan by a group of motorized and mountain bike organizations. It also directed the Forest Service to provide an objection opportunity regarding the closure of trails in WSAs to bicycles. In a July 10, 2018 news release, the Forest Service explained it will provide the objection opportunity and in the meantime “trails in WSAs are open to mountain bikes.” This effectively re-opened trails in the Sapphire and Blue Joint WSAs to mountain bike use that is inconsistent with their wilderness character and is prohibited by the Bitterroot Travel Plan.

A coalition[1], represented by Earthjustice, had intervened to defend the Bitterroot Travel Plan and questioned the Forest Service’s interpretation in a request for clarification from the Court.  The Court granted the coalition’s request and clarified that the June 29 order does not vacate the Travel Plan’s WSA protections.

“We are pleased to see the court correct the Forest Service’s interpretation to protect these wild landscapes,” said Marla Fox of WildEarth Guardians. “These WSAs are special places for a host of recreational uses and imperiled wildlife including wolverine. Preventing environmental degradation is an important step towards preserving the forest and its unique values for future generations.”

[1] Friends of the Bitterroot, Hellgate Hunters and Anglers, Missoula Back Country Horsemen, Montana Wilderness Association, Selway-Pintler Wilderness Back Country Horsemen, WildEarth Guardians, and Winter Wildlands Alliance.

Other Contact
Larry Campbell, Friends of the Bitterroot, 406-821-3110, lcampbell@bitterroot.net, Amy Robinson, Montana Wilderness Association, 406-284-1747, arobinson@wildmontana.org