After five years of responding to nearly 13,000 public responses, the Forest Service has finally settled on a new travel plan for the Bitterroot National Forest.

Forest Supervisor Julie King says there will be 355 miles of road that will no longer be accessible for motorized use, but she says few large vehicle drivers will notice a difference.

“People in full-size vehicles probably won’t notice a change," King said, "Because by and large all of the main arterial routes in the forest are open and will be accessible. There are some seasonal closures, because we don’t plow snow in the winters. We do have, under this draft decision, we have 2,246 miles of open roads and trails, which would be the equivalent of driving from Hamilton to Atlanta, Georgia.”

King says those with Snowmobiles, ATVs, motorcycles and mountain bikes will see large swaths of land become inaccessible, mostly because of a failure for the U.S. Congress to make a decision.

“The big reason is that we have two very large Wilderness Study Areas on the forest: the Blue Joint, and the Sapphire," King explained. "They were designated in 1977 by congress and congress asked for them to be studied for a period of five years and then they were going to make a decision to include them in the wilderness system or release them, but that decision wasn’t made.”

King says the prior plan was drawn up in the 70s and had become outdated with spikes in population growth and new technology. The travel plan comes in at around 200 pages and may begin to be implemented by winter 2015.


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