Research shows COVID-19 social distancing must be increased while hiking, running and biking!
Distances to avoid particle contamination must be increased up to 65 feet as speed is increased and/or by moving to the side of the slipstream of the person in front of you.
The latter is difficult or impossible to do on narrow forest trails and roadway shoulders, so be safe when seeking a breath of fresh air and some exercise outdoors!
This article in WIRED magazine explains why the standard 6 feet of social distance isn't enough as we breath harder and move more rapidly.
Enjoy our public lands and roadways but do so safely!
Your comments are needed NOW to help stop a 700-person trail-running event and help shape commercial guiding on the Flathead National Forest!
The Flathead has requested public comment on 12 Special Use Permits it is proposing for recreational events, shuttles and guiding services this summer.
Among them is Whitefish Legacy Partners' request for a permit to again run its trail-running race from Whitefish to the top of Big Mountain and back, but this time with up to 400 runners and an additional 300 spectators and volunteers! (These numbers provided by the Forest Service are inconsistent with WLP's permit application).
Foys to Blacktail Trails appears to be repeating the 100-trail-runner-maximum race it held last year, when retired FWS Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator Chris Servheen wrote in opposition to these risky foot races in bear habitat.
UPDATE JULY 11, 2020: A trail-runner physically collided with a grizzly bear in Glacier National Park, but was lucky to escape with minor injuries as the forgiving bear ran off. This should not become a huge spectator sport via Forest Service special use permits!
Also among the slew of SUPs are requests for guided tours for ATVs, hikers and bikers, as well as shuttle services - in critical wildlife habitats and some on roads closed to protect wildlife security!
Here are some suggestions for your comments, which must be submitted by May 1:
1. Do not permit trail-running races due to the documented increased risk to people, bears and other wildlife. It also sends the wrong message about how people should safely recreate in the habitat of bears and mountain lions.
2. Do permit slow-paced hiking and biking activities that help people get heart-healthy exercise while teaching responsible conduct in the habitat of bears and mountain lions.
3. Do not permit ATV tours, van tours and other motorized events that burn fossil fuels and hasten climate change in the name of recreation.
4. Do not permit commercially guided hiking and biking tours on roads closed to motorized use to provide wildlife security. These roads already receive non-commercial human use. Additional commercial use will result in even less wildlife security.
5. Do not permit large group tours and events where COVID-19 social distancing requirements cannot be met. Montana is currently among the least infected states in the country and we'd like to keep it that way.
Please send your comments by May 1 to all three of the following Ranger District addresses:
Click here to read our 4-page letter to the Flathead.
Click here for our single page of additional concerns after seeing the permit applications.
Click here for the Flathead's brief description of the proposed permits.
THANK YOU for taking a moment to comment on these issues important to the health of people and wildlife!
Click here for the Daily Inter Lake news article.
Click here for the Hungry Horse News article.
Click here for two critical letters to editors: 1. Robert Hermes led and largely funded the establishment of the Lakeside to Blacktail Trail and, though a long-distance runner himself, says "trails in the national forest are just not the right venue" for marathon races; 2. Carol Edwards, a resident of Polebridge, lays out how the public has been given "short shrift and silenced before they ever got a chance to speak" on these permit issues.
Click here for a Hungry Horse News column opposing the SUPs and process.
Click here for a Missoulian article about Forest Service directives to issue more special use permits more quickly to "be more responsible to customer needs."
Scroll down to view the maps and supplemental information we've been able to obtain from the Forest Service thus far. (You may need to click on "Read Full Article" to make them appear).
Grizzly Bears aren't even a blip on the chart compared to the people living, working and playing in their habitat!*
Now is your chance to advise Governor Steve Bullock that you don't want Montana to authorize the sport hunting of grizzly bears!
The Governor's Grizzly Bear Advisory Council is meeting electronically on April 9 to formulate their advice on this subject.
Please take a moment now and submit your thoughts to the Council here, so Council members have time to download your comments from the survey site prior to their April 9 meeting!
Below is what Swan View Coalition submitted today. We encourage you to submit comments in your own words, though you are of course free to borrow from ours. Please include your name when submitting comments so they don't get devalued as anonymous comments.
Swan View Coalition urges the GBAC to advise Governor Bullock to not consider grizzly bear sport hunting as a viable means to manage grizzly bears and to rescind the language in his Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM 12.9.103). Those rules require a sport hunt of grizzly bears as “the most desirable method of balancing grizzly bear numbers with their available habitat” should the bear lose its federal ESA protection.
Grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem number about 1,000 while 100,000 people live in Flathead County alone. Nearly 400,000 people live in the 12 counties that contain the NCDE and the number of people visiting Glacier National Park’s bear habitat each year is still climbing from the 2.4 million that visited in 2015!
Grizzly bears are struggling with increasing numbers of people living, working and playing in their habitat. You can’t balance out this problem by killing grizzly bears without halting or reversing the recovery of the grizzly bear population.
Urge the governor instead to beef up his Administrative Rules of Montana to better protect grizzly bears and their habitat so that grizzly bear numbers can increase and the various grizzly bear ecosystems can be reconnected. Population experts say it will take 5,000 grizzly bears in a reconnected NCDE-Yellowstone-Selway Bitterroot-Cabinet-Yaak-Selkirks ecosystem to maintain genetic diversity over the long term.
Shooting grizzly bears runs contrary to increasing grizzly bear numbers and their reoccupation of essential habitats. And sport hunting does not target the bears that may need to be killed on occasion as a matter of human safety.
It took a lawsuit by Swan View Coalition and Fund for Animals to end Montana’s former grizzly bear hunt in 1991, which was then responsible for 48% of all known human-caused grizzly mortality in the NCDE. Montana simply can’t be trusted to manage grizzly bears through hunting, especially in light of increasing human and development pressures being applied to bear habitat.
THANK YOU for taking a few moments during this difficult time to advocate for wildlife! Threats to them and their habitat never cease!
*Graph data sources are https://www.montana-demographics.com/counties_by_population and
We want to do our part to help "flatten the curve" of the coronavirus pandemic and protect our friends and families by suspending these group activities.
We encourage folks to get out into the woods for a breath of fresh air and to recognize that our public wildlands provide a spirit-calming place to practice social distancing!
Meanwhile, know that our single staff person continues working remotely from his home office and says "I don't like sitting indoors in big meetings anyway!"
All kidding aside, we wish you and yours the very best during this time of prescribed "social distancing."
We look forward to when we can safely resume these popular group activities and will post another announcement then.
Our Winter 2020 newsletter reports on the Forest Service's return to its road-building binge, how it is trashing our climate, what we are doing about it, and how the government is trying to use executive privilege to hide Flathead Forest planning documents from public and judicial review!
Below is our newsletter's table of contents. Click here to view or download it as a pdf.
A big THANK YOU to those of you who have made donations that support our continuing work!
Won't you join them and make a donation here?
Fish, wildlife and people are counting on us - and you!
The revised Flathead Forest Plan pledged to maintain the on-the-ground grizzly bear habitat conditions that existed in 2011, in order to be consistent with the NCDE Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy and plans to remove Endangered Species Act protections from NCDE grizzly bears.
Now the Flathead says it will not maintain those levels of habitat security as it increases human development of bear habitat - and claims it isn't required to do so under its revised (2018) Forest Plan!
Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan, and Independent Wildlife Consultant Brian Peck summarize this about-face in their primary Objection to the Flathead's Hellroaring Basin Improvement's Project.
The Flathead admits the HBIP would reduce grizzly bear habitat security in Hellroaring Basin by constructing two new chairlifts, their service roads, new ski runs, and the thinning of forest hiding cover for glade skiing. The Flathead also admits that two mountain bike trails to be built in Hellroaring Basin, among the 28 miles being constructed under the already approved Taylor Hellroaring Project, will also displace bears from their habitat.
The Flathead nonetheless attempts to make it look like this is consistent with its pledge to maintain the level of 2011 grizzly bear habitat security, a 1995 requirement to maintain bear security in Hellroaring Basin on the south side of Big Mountain as Whitefish Mountain Resort was expanded to the north side of Big Mountain, and the revised Forest Plan’s condition to provide increased grizzly bear security in the Hellroaring watershed. It does so by saying it will maintain its 2011 baseline security parameters, but then intentionally not quantifying the additional displacement of bears and not measuring it against those parameters, making it appear the 2011 baseline is not being degraded.
The Objectors find this same "phony numbers" system is being applied to all projects being implemented under the revised Forest Plan, masking the on-the-ground impacts of scores of miles of new logging road construction, the construction of 80 miles of new mountain bike trails, and ski area developments like those in Hellroaring Basin. Objectors list five ways in which impacts to bears are not being included in, and hence limited by, the 2011 baseline security parameters:
1. Allowing unlimited miles of non-motorized trails to be constructed with no trail density standard - or 2011 Baseline parameter - to limit them.
2. Allowing unlimited miles of non-motorized “high-use” trails to exist in the Secure Core Baseline parameter by redefining the previous Plan's Amendment 19 “Security Core” in order to allow them to go undetected in the revised Plan’s “Secure Core.” “Security Core” did not allow such high-use trails.
3. Allowing an unlimited mileage of roads - by not including roads with the entrance simply rendered “impassable” to motor vehicles in Total Road Density, even though the road will be retained as a road and continue to contribute human impacts to grizzly bear habitat. This was not allowed under Amendment 19, which required that roads had to be reclaimed and no longer function as roads or trails, motorized or non-motorized, to be omitted from TRD.
4. By not including Special Use Permit roads that are on Forest Service land, and often simply closed by gates, in calculations of TRD.
5. By allowing road construction and the relaxing of road closure types to diminish the amount of “security habitat” greater than 500 meters from roads simply because that habitat does not already remain in blocks of at least 2,500 acres. This is essentially a license to further fragment already fragmented habitats and further relegate security habitat to higher elevations rather than allow it to persist in critical lower elevations such as Hellroaring Basin.
Objectors ask for a new Environmental Impact Statement to look at the cumulative impacts of the many projects being implemented under the revised Forest Plan, the degradation of bear habitat and security going unaccounted for, and to reinstate the former Plan's Amendment 19 with modifications to insure that it does not allow impacts to bears to go unaccounted for.
The details of the Flathead's admissions are summarized in Objectors' primary Objection and in the Flathead's Project File Exhibits it references.
Click here for our primary Objection to the Hellroaring Basin Improvements Project.
Click here and scroll down for links to the various Project File Exhibits referenced in our primary Objection.
Click here for our supplemental Objection to the Hellroaring Basin Improvements Project (detailing inconsistencies with the Forest Plan and the National Environmental Policy Act).
Click here for our Objection press release.
Click here for the resulting Missoula Current news article.
Click here for the Flathead's Hellroaring Basin, Taylor Hellroaring, and other project documents.
Your comments on permitting a commercial shuttle and ski/snowshoe guide service on the Flathead NF's Round Meadow Winter Trails are due Dec 22!
The Flathead has failed to make adequate public announcement about this proposed commercial permit.
But the Flathead is accepting public comment through December 22 and here is what we've learned from Tally Lake District Ranger Bill Mulholland:
1. Whitefish Shuttle Livery and Guiding requested this permit on October 1, but the Flathead is just now getting around to asking some members of the public what they think of the idea.
2. The permit would run from December 23, 2019 through April 1, 2020, and would allow a maximum of 200 clients to be dropped off at and/or be guided on the groomed trail system.
3. Only one shuttle or guided trip would be allowed each day. "This could equate to approximately 3-4 visitors a day at Round Meadows."
4. "Currently parking at the trailhead is limited during peak use times."
5. Ranger Mulholland did not indicate whether clients can drive themselves to the trailhead and be guided from there or whether they must use the shuttle service.
6. Ranger Mulholland declined to notify the press of this proposal.
You may also want to let the Flathead know you want everyone to have more than a few days notice to comment on proposals that may affect their National Forest!
Click here to read Swan View Coalition's comments.
Click here for Ranger Mulholland's skimpy public notice packet.
UPDATE 12/16/19: Patagonia has now met its pledge to match $10 million in donations to participating organizations! If you still wish to make a year-end donation on-line to Swan View Coalition, please click on the Donate Now button on this web page.
THANK YOU to those of you that donated nearly $4,000 to support our work via Patagonia Action Works in the first half of December - and THANK YOU to Patagonia for matching those donations!
Patagonia will match/double your donation to support the work of Swan View Coalition if you donate now!
Patagonia has pledged to match up to $10 million in donations to participating organizations through December 31, but has already matched $6 million!
So donate now via our Patagonia Action Works page if you want Patagonia to match/double your donation!
Your generosity enables us to keep America's roadless areas roadless, keep America's remaining old-growth forests standing, and promote ecosystem restoration through limits on off-road vehicles and the reclamation of excessive logging roads!
THANK YOU for your support of our work!