Anyone struggling with preseason Rocky Mountain Front wanderlust can put that curiosity to use with a U.S. Forest Service interactive map.
In the process, the Rocky Mountain Front Ranger District will get a better idea how to manage the entryway to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex recently redesignated by the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act.
“There’s backcountry, front-country and day-use areas outside the wilderness where we want to know – how are folks using it?” said Ian Bardwell, natural resource specialist for the ranger district. “As Congress laid out the Heritage Act, one thing it called for was a study of the new conservation management areas and the Badger-Two Medicine lands.”
That covers the Front from just north of Highway 200 to the southern borders of Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation along U.S. Highway 2. The area has about 450 miles of non-motorized trail, not counting the designated Scapegoat and Bob Marshall wilderness areas.
The interactive map allows viewers to mark or draw lines around particular points of interest and leave comments about the spot. Bardwell said the information would go into the ranger district’s planning discussions.
“We don’t want to give people the wrong idea that they can make a comment or suggestion and next year see improvements on the ground,” Bardwell said. “But when we’re considering grant applications and capital investments, we look at that list of ideas.”
The legislation particularly seeks input for potential mountain biking use or issues in the conservation management areas. While wheeled transportation is prohibited in the federally designated wilderness, it is allowed in the national forest backcountry outside the wilderness boundaries.
However, information from the map survey will not change the already completed travel management plans for the Rocky Mountain Ranger District or the Badger-Two Medicine area, which were finished in 2007 and 2009.
Comments can be provided through the new interactive mapping tool online at www.fs.usda.gov/lcnf; emailed to: email@example.com; or mailed to: Rocky Mountain Ranger District, PO Box 340, Choteau, MT 59422. Please note “Non-motorized Recreation Study” on the subject line for emails, and on any written comments.