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Quietly, Forest Service seeks comment on 23 special use permits

by CHRIS PETERSON
Hungry Horse News | May 10, 2022 12:00 AM

Trail running tours. ATV tours. Even a business that wants to transport docks out to private landowners on Swan Lake.

Those are just a sampling of the 23 special use permits the Flathead National Forest is considering for this summer season.

The Forest Service announced a public comment period on its Facebook page on April 30, but did not issue a formal press release on the permits.

Some permits only cover a single event, such as Logan Health, which plans on hosting a marathon Sept. 24 with up to 1,000 runners, which will go from the Big Creek Campground and run south on the North Fork Road to Columbia Falls. 


Others are summerlong services. For example, Northwest Montana Adventures is requesting 200 service days to provide guided ATV/UTV tours on the Tally Lake and Glacier View Ranger Districts. The proposed dates of operation are June 1 through Oct. 31 with the restrictions of normal road closures for Side by Sides or UTVs. The tours would be permitted in conjunction with the Stillwater State Forest.

Tours would start in the Stillwater State Forest and would go to Red Meadow Lake, but only from the east side of the Whitefsh Divide.

The company has offered those tours in the past.

Another request includes trail running in the Whitefish Range.

Alpine Running Guides is requesting to offer guided running trips to trail runners. Approximately 10-14 participants would be on each trip with one or two guides. Trails would include the Reid Divide Trail (#800) and Nasukoin Trail (#375). Clients will receive transportation to and from the trailhead from Whitefish, snacks, and lunch, plus access to water filters, maps of the route, local knowledge/interpretation, and the ability to borrow bear spray, according to the permit request.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has long held that running on trails in grizzly bear country is highly unrecommended. A few years ago, an ultramarathon proposed for the Swan Crest was eventually squashed because trail runners would be out at night in grizzly bear terrain.

Other outfits don’t want to guide folks so much as simply get their gear, like bicycles, to trailheads

Whitefish Shuttle, for example, is requesting shuttle services livery, guided van tours, guided mountain biking and/or hiking trips on the Tally Lake and Hungry Horse / Glacier View system roads. One touring route, according to the apllication, is requested from Polebridge up to Red Meadow Pass and down the Upper Whitefish Road, with a pullover at Red Meadow Lake for a stretch and picture break either by bicycle or ebike.

All told, they’re seeking 200 “service days.”

A service day is defined as a single person being served. So if 14 people go on one tour, that would be 14 service days.

Public comment on the proposals is due May 18.

They are all listed at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/flathead/landmanagement/projects

A pdf list of the proposals is at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/.../FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd1016648.pdf.