MT’s Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Publishes Notice for Next Step in Forest Plan Revision

The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana has published a Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to revise its Forest Plan pursuant to the Forest Service’s 2012 Forest Planning Rule. The revised Forest Plan will provide guidance for management of the Forest for approximately the next 15 years and will address. The NOI states that, among other needed changes, “comprehensive management direction is needed to address suitability of certain areas for particular uses, address access and sustainable recreation.” While this Forest Plan revision does not authorize site-specific prohibitions or activities, including those with respect to the management of individual roads or trails, the ultimate Forest Plan revision will establish broad direction for Forest management, which may impact future OHV access on the Forest.

ARRA has had concerns that the 2012 Planning Rule clearly provides that preservation trumps social and economic factors, including recreation, contradicting the Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act, the statute that authorizes many Forest activities. Under the Planning Rule, an assessment of ecological, social, and economic conditions and trends in the planning area is the first phase of a 3-phase planning process. The second phase includes preparation of a draft revised Forest Plan for public review and comment followed by a Final Forest Plan. The third stage of the process is monitoring and feedback, which is ongoing over the life of the revised Forest Plan.

The Draft EIS is expected November 2017 and the Final EIS is expected August 2018.

Public Meetings/Comments

Community meetings will be held to provide additional information and address questions related to the Forest Plan revision. Meetings will take place from January 23, 2017 to February 2, 2017 at various locations in Montana. Specific times, dates and locations for each meeting can be found on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Plan Revision webpage.

Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received by March 30, 2017. It is important that OHV enthusiasts stay involved in the Forest Plan revision process by contacting Forest staff. Comments may be submitted online, by fax: 406-449-5436, or by mail: Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Supervisor’s Office, Attn: Forest Plan Revision, 2880 Skyway Dr., Helena, Montana 59602.

Additional Information

Forest Plan Revision Website

Federal Register Notice

For further information, please contact Deb Entwistle, Acting Revision Team Leader, Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, at (406) 449-5201.

About ARRA

Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA) was formed to ensure that Americans are not arbitrarily denied the right to responsibly experience and enjoy the public lands that belong to the citizens of the United States. The members of ARRA, which include horseback riders, personal watercraft users, off-highway vehicle and snowmobile riders, and vacationing families, have joined together to provide input on decisions regarding land use designation, recreation opportunities, and preservation. Its members seek responsible consideration of competing activities, which are based on sound environmental principles.

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