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With hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders, dog walkers and other miscellaneous recreationists all heading for Missoula's nearby wildlands this summer, the potential for conflicts and impacts on the land is high.

Throw bears and noxious weeds into the mix, and that potential ratchets up to extreme.

Hoping to head off some of those problems before they arise, four organizations have joined forces to hold the Rattlesnake Trailhead Education Fair on Saturday. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the main Rattlesnake trailhead and horse trailhead.

"The purpose of the fair is to reach out to the community and provide information about how to minimize impacts on the land and learn ways to share the trail," said Allen Byrd, coordinator of the Leave No Trace Program for the Missoula Ranger District.

"We have a lot of different recreational users on our forestlands near Missoula," Byrd said. "There are ways that they can learn to have a good time, but allow others to have a good time, too."

Byrd teaches the principles of Leave No Trace, a program developed by the U.S. Forest Service in the 1970s initially as a way to minimize the impacts of camping. The program has evolved since then, and has been adopted by all other land management agencies, as well as many nonprofit conservation organizations, Byrd said.

"The idea is that when we recreate," he said, "we create impacts, even when we don't mean to. Leave No Trace makes us aware of those impacts and teaches ways to limit or prevent them."

Every year, Byrd makes Leave No Trace presentations to 35 to 45 classes of sixth-graders in the Missoula area.

"My job is to get that out into the public," he said. "So I came up with the fair."

The Rattlesnake Trailhead Education Fair is a cooperative effort between the Forest Service, Low Impact Mountain Bikers, Missoula County Weed District and Brown Bear Resources.

Presentations will include Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics, Basic Horse Outdoor Ethics, Low Impact Mountain Biking, Bear Awareness and Noxious Weed Education. Each presentation will be repeated throughout the day.

The horse ethics presentation will be at 11 a.m. and again at noon. Leave No Trace is scheduled at noon and 1 p.m.; bear awareness at 11 a.m., 1 and 2 p.m.; low impact mountain biking at noon, 2 and 3 p.m.; noxious weeds at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m.

For more information, call Byrd at 329-3936 at the Missoula Ranger District.

Reporter Daryl Gadbow can be reached at 523-5264 or at dgadbow@missoulian.com

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