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HELENA - The U.S. Forest Service has approved a military biathlon course proposed for the Continental Divide just west of Helena.

Helena National Forest Supervisor Kevin Riordan signed a decision notice and finding of "no significant impact" authorizing the Montana Army National Guard to proceed with the project.

The decision announced Thursday gives the Guard a green light to build a course for biathlon - rigorous Nordic skiing followed by target shooting with .22-caliber rifles - on Forest Service land near MacDonald Pass.

The area is popular among Nordic skiers from nearby Helena.

Some skiers like the Guard's $1.5 million plan because the groomed course would be open to the public when not in military use. Others say a peaceful area, inhabited by wildlife and popular for family, recreation would be disrupted.

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