Preliminary recommendations for inclusion in an upcoming draft Montana State Trails Plan are now available for review by the public. The recommendations are available in a new report incorporating comments and suggestions offered by the public and Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff during review of an initial trails plan document released last spring. This new report offers the last major opportunity for preliminary review of proposed draft plan contents before the comprehensive draft Plan is released for public comment in 1997.
The report includes preliminary issues, goals and strategies for potential inclusion in the Montana State Trails Plan. Before the draft Plan is released, there likely will be important additional modifications to the recommendations, as more trail-related research is analyzed and more public and agency comments are collected.
Development of the State Trails Plan represents the first time that trail managing agencies and users have stepped back to look at Montana's entire, interagency trail system and assess how it might be better maintained and improved. The focus is on statewide, rather than local or trail-specific issues, with a primary emphasis on common values shared by most trail users, and areas of agreement within and between managing agencies and other interested parties.
In addition to the State Trails Plan, a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which analyzes the impacts of two trail grant programs presently administered by FWP, also is currently being prepared. The programs assessed in the PEIS include motorized and non-motorized trail funding available through the National Recreational Trails Fund Act and the state Off-Highway Vehicle OHV grant program. Recommendations in the Trails Plan will reflect relevant environmental research included in the PEIS. Like the draft Trails Plan, the draft PEIS will be available for public review in 1997.
None of the issues, goals or strategies included in the new Trails Plan report are final FWP recommendations. The information that emerges from this process, however, will form the core of the State Trails Plan and will shape development of the PEIS.
Primary trail uses covered by the Plan and PEIS are: hiking, bicycling (traditional), mountain biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, off-road motorcycling, ATV riding and back-country four-wheel-drive vehicle use. One major trail use not included in either the Trails Plan or the PEIS is snowmobiling, an activity which was addressed under a separate PEIS planning process completed in 1993.
Comments on the preliminary draft recommendations in the new Trails Plan report are requested by February 1, 1997. For a copy of the new report, please contact: Jeff Erickson, Parks Division, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 1420 E. 6th Ave., Helena, MT 59620; telephone 406-444-3818/FAX: 444-4952.