Protect Big Springs first and foremost

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Your View

Dear Editor,

I am a resident of Lewistown and wish to address the U.S. Forest Service Management Plan for the Big Snowies and the Middle Fork of the Little Belt mountains.

While supporting a mix of Alternatives C and D, my foremost concern is to protect the water source of Big Springs, the lifeblood of Lewistown and its immediate surroundings. I want any of the plans to state unambiguously that all steps will be taken to insure our water quality. Protect the water at all cost.

Second, I am an advocate for wilderness in these two WSAs. The Snowies is the last remaining unbroken wilderness of the surrounding island ranges and should be managed with this quality foremost in mind.

At this point I throw in my “yes but….” A few years back the Forest Service, snowmobilers and other recreational groups achieved an MOU on an area in the western portion of the Snowies around Crystal Lake. This past year I found evidence of snowmobiles going in on the east end, at Uhlhorn. If the USFS says snowmobilers are restricted to a given area, then that must be enforced. If the USFS puts in a nonmechanized, non-motorized rule, then put some teeth to it. To make unenforceable regulations simply frustrates the public.

Also, a wink and a nod has been given to mountain bikers to use the Ice Cave Loop. Now bikers want to ride across the Crest trail to Halfmoon (Uhlhorn) and beyond. I believe mountain bikes are here to stay and must be included along with foot travel and horses. The distinction between motorized and mechanized is rather obvious, though e-bikes open new doors to consider. If permitted, routes need to be determined and signed.

It would be tremendously beneficial if crews would clear and blaze existing trails, placing signs telling the public what is allowed and what isn’t. Most recreationalists will honor the regulations. Work with citizen groups to clear the trails and sign Cottonwood, the Redhill Road access, Maynard Ridge, Swimming Woman and Halfmoon so the public can utilize these trails with the knowledge these routes are approved and maintained. Make them as accessible as the Loop trail. I believe the USFS would receive much less criticism and a lot more kudos if the public knew the agency was present and accountable for any management plan.

Clint Loomis

Lewistown

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