By Charles Pekow – If you want to mountain bike in Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, you've got a brief window to advocate for it. The forests in Idaho have reopened a public comment period on a proposed environmental impact statement, a necessary procedure in creating a Land Management Plan.
The Forest Service originally took public comments five years ago. Last year, it issued an analysis of what it learned and came up with four alternatives, labeled W, X, Y and Z, plus a mandatory “no action” option. Only alternative Z would allow mountain biking in some proposed wilderness areas.
But the service learned through the public input process that “mountain bikes are a much more prevalent use on the national forest than previously thought,” according to a draft statement issued last year (https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd589005.pdf ). The draft indicated that officials want to connect the various tracks, such as “North Fork to the Lochsa River south to the Selway River (outside the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness boundary.” The draft also mentioned the need to mitigate occasional conflicts between bikers and other trail users.
The draft also says that no matter what alternative the forests take, “there will be a desired condition to see an increase in the number of loop opportunities of various lengths in all recreational settings.”
The forest staff want to see comments by Oct. 7. They hope to issue a draft by the end of the year and a final statement a year or so later. See https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-09-05/html/2019-19089.htm.