Lourenço Marques posted this as a comment:
He had seen this on FB.
Today the Montana Bicycle Guild, Inc., filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court brought by Helena Hunters & Anglers and Montana Wildlife Federation against the U.S. Forest Service. The MBG is intervening to support the Forest Service’s decision on the Ten Mile-South Helena Project and to protect the interests of mountain bikers.
“As part of the post-disturbance restoration for this project, the Forest Service adopted several long-established trails into the trail system inventory and also approved the construction of three new thoroughly vetted and needed trails.
“The lawsuit brought by Helena Hunters & Anglers and Montana Wildlife Federation challenges the incorporation of existing trails into the inventoried system. Their lawsuit also seeks to prevent two of the new trails in this area from being built. . . .
“This would end-run years of work and collaboration to impose a de facto ban of bicycles from every trail in this area targeted by their lawsuit. If the Helena Hunters & Anglers and Montana Wildlife Federation lawsuit is successful, the bicycling community would suffer a major loss and be banned from this entire area.
“This project doesn’t only impact bikers—every public land user would lose a couple of well-thought-out new trails that is the result of numerous people and groups working together for many years, including the MBG, to plan and collaborate with the Forest Service.”
Lourenço asks “Would any employees of or participants in the public-lands litigation factory care to explain how this lawsuit benefits the cause of conservation?”
It seems pretty much BAU to litigate fuel treatment projects in Montana. The interesting twist is about the trails. From this Independence Record story:
The project calls for logging, thinning and prescribed burning on 17,500 acres near Helena. Goals primarily focus on wildfire concerns, with the aim of creating safe places to insert firefighters and reducing a wildfire’s potential severity. A smaller aspect of the project includes trail designations and construction, which has drawn some criticism — and now lawsuits — over concerns of drawing mountain bikes into roadless areas.
The association and federation’s lawsuit was recently consolidated with a separate and much broader lawsuit filed by Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council. While the first lawsuit only challenges work in inventoried roadless areas, the second lawsuit challenges the entirety of the project and calls for it to be halted due to allegations of inadequate environmental analysis and impacts to wildlife.
The guild is challenging the trail portion of the lawsuit. The group contends that multiple trails in the project area have been used for decades by mountain bikers and notes that the project decision prohibits mountain bikes from leaving designated trails. The project officially designates two trails that have seen traditional bike use as well as construction of two multi-use trails in the Jericho and Lazyman Gulch inventoried roadless areas, the guild says.
Is this about kicking bikers off trails they currently use? But bike use is legal in roadless areas.. It’s all very confusing.
I also noted that the State is an intervenor as in this story from KTVH.
Finally, to make the whole project even more confusing, the project is currently underway while the lawsuits move forward according to this article that talks about the implementation (with good photos).
“Courts have not ruled on or temporarily halted the project as it hears the cases, however the Forest Service has agreed to suspend work in roadless areas until the court has ruled on the first lawsuit.”
Here’s an op-ed on the Collaborative and how their opinions were used in the decision.
Some of his claims are interesting:
The purpose of the project according to the DROD is to: “Reduce the probability of high-severity wildfires and their associated detrimental watershed effects in the Tenmile Municipal Watershed and surrounding area.”
This is a violation of NEPA since the project will not do this and the purpose also violates NFMA and the APA since trying to fireproof a forest destroys a forest and makes an unhealthy watershed.