An interactive mapping tool will let backcountry users tell the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest what roads are important or unneeded.
“We’re making a snapshot in time of what our current road system is,” spokeswoman Leona Rodreick said Wednesday. “We want to identify all the existing routes out there, so if there’s a road that’s not on the map, let us know.”
The travel analysis is not as involved as a U.S. Forest Service travel plan. Rodreick said this effort won’t trigger any decisions about maintenance or closures. Instead, it forms a baseline of information that other specific projects will refer to in their environmental analysis.
The 3.35 million-acre Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is really a collection of smaller areas touching eight southwestern Montana counties: Granite, Powell, Jefferson, Deer Lodge, Silver Bow, Madison, Gallatin and Beaverhead.
While the Madison Ranger District has already completed its travel analysis, the rest of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge is still gathering opinions. Its previous road survey dates to 2005, with some updates in 2010.
The interactive map allows users to zoom in on specific drainages or forest areas and find roads by Forest Service system number. Currently open roads are shown in green, while closed ones appear in red.
Users can hover over a road to learn its number and name, and then enter the road number in the public input section and add their suggestions. Comments can be as specific as the location of a gate or the general status or need for a given route.
The Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest Plan lists 5,633 miles of road currently open in its system network, and another 1,169 miles of closed road. Of that, at least 4,592 miles are listed as “needed for future use” and 139 miles are listed as “not needed for future use.”
The balance are roads that have some seasonal, administrative or other restricted use but aren’t generally open to the public.
While the input request is not a formal public comment period, participants are asked to submit their opinions on the roads by the end of July. Hard-copy maps of the affected areas are available at Forest Service offices in Butte, Ennis, Dillon, Wisdom and Philipsburg for those not able to view them online.