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State Trails Management Documents Become Final

Friday, May 25, 2001

Headlines

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has adopted as final the Montana State Trails Plan and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), according to FWP Director Jeff Hagener. "After nearly nine months of collecting and reviewing input we are confident we have well-considered documents that will help guide our trail work for years to come."

Over 300 comments were received and considered during the initial public review period last fall. Following the April 3 release of the draft documents, FWP continued to receive public input resulting in nearly 100 additional comments.

"We found no substantive, new information in this latest round of comments though it did become clear there was some confusion we needed to clear up about how snowmobile trails will be managed," Hagener said. A separate Snowmobile PEIS completed in 1993 continues to be the document of record for managing snowmobile trails.

The Montana State Trails Plan and the related Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) now become the operational guidelines that set the state's direction for the future of Montana's motorized and non-motorized public trail system, excluding snowmobile trails.

The goal of the Montana State Trails Plan is to strengthen Montana's trail network by improving cooperation among agencies, organizations and individuals; increasing availability of funds; and better meeting the needs of trail users.

The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) recommends improvements to two trail-grant programs administered by FWP that allocate funding available through the federal Recreational Trails Program (RTP), and the State Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Grant Program.

During the main comment period for the Montana State Trails Plan and the PEIS, the public expressed an overwhelming desire to dedicate more funding to non-motorized trails, particularly those in urban areas across the state. The plans reflect this input, with increased funding from the Federal Recreational Trails Program phased in over the next five years.

Motorized trails will be funded in part by the Federal Recreational Trails Program and in part by traditional earmarked funding sources, such as the state fuel tax and decal fees, unavailable to non-motorized trails programs.

The main trail uses covered in the document are hiking, off-highway motorcycling, ATV riding, cross-country skiing, bicycling, back-country 4 x 4 driving, and horseback riding. The 1993 Snowmobile PEIS covers snowmobile riding.

"We deeply appreciate the time, energy and commitment of all who took the time to comment and be involved in the development of these plans," Hagener said.

For more information on the State Trails Plan and PEIS or to request copies of the final documents, contact the FWP office in Helena: Jeff Erickson at 406-444-3818 or jerickson@state.mt.us; or Bob Walker at 406-444-4585 or bwalker@state.mt.us.