Dr. Chris Servheen says he opposes the issuance of Special Use Permits for ultra-marathon trail-running races in bear habitat and wants permits for mountain bike guiding to comply with interagency recommendations for minimizing bear-human conflicts.
His comments were submitted to the Flathead National Forest during a public comment period on several such permits.
Dr. Servheen was Chair of the Board of Review investigating the death of Brad Treat when he slammed into a grizzly bear while mountain biking at high speed on the Flathead NF.
The Board of Review, which included two Flathead NF staff, recommends that people not run or bike fast in bear habitat. The BOR based its recommendations on numerous instances of people and bears being injured or killed due to surprise encounters during running and biking.
Dr. Servheen wrote "Issuing such permits will send the public a very conflicting message about how to recreate in bear habitat and send a bad message about the veracity of agency advice about how to recreate safely where there are bears . . . doing so will contradict years of agency educational efforts."
Flathead Forest Supervisor Chip Weber objected to the recommendations of the BOR at the June 25 meeting of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and in an opinion piece to newspapers. He falsely claims that trail running and fast mountain biking are no more likely to cause a human-bear encounter than walking or hiking.
News accounts and Swan View's response to Weber note that the BOR cites substantial research in support of its findings and recommendations.
Click here to read the Daily Inter Lake article "Bear Expert Opposes Permits for Running Events."
Click here for Dr. Servheen's comments.
Click here for the Board of Review Recommendations.
Click here for MT Dept. of Fish Wildlife and Parks' findings: "Increased speed can increase the likelihood of surprising a bear at close range. Even during planned events with numerous participants, negative encounters including fatalities, can and have occurred."
Click here for MTPR's story on the IGBC meeting.
Click here for the Missoulian article about Supervisor Weber's objections.
Click here for Supervisor Weber's guest opinion.
Click here for Swan View Coalition's letter to editors in response to Weber's objections.
Click here for "When Cyclists Collide with Bears," an excellent summary of bike-bear collisions and the research showing fast travel results in increased risk of surprise encounters between people and bears!
Click here for Swan View's press release expressing disappointment in the approval of the Whitefish Legacy Partners and Foys to Blacktail trail marathon permits and the dangerous precedent they set on the Flathead NF.
Click here for more background on this issue.
Logging road landslide into Sullivan Creek bull trout habitat!
Keith Hammer photo.