Tag Archives: Whitefish Range Partnership

Larry Wilson: Wilderness compromise reached for North Forkers

Larry Wilson’s column discusses the efforts of the Whitefish Range Partnership . . .

Nearly 13 months ago, the Whitefish Range Partnership was organized. This group is a diverse group representing every aspect of forest users, from timber companies to wilderness advocates and everything in between — hikers, horsemen, trail bikers, snowmobilers, off-road motorists and commercial interests.

The purpose was to be ahead of the Flathead National Forest planning process and put together a document that would influence the Forest Plan and make it easier for the feds to come up with a plan acceptable to a majority of users.

Toughest subject to deal with was wilderness, and because the self-imposed rule of the WRP was that if even one member voted no then no proposal would be forwarded to the Forest Service.

Continue reading at the Hungry Horse News . . .

Whitefish Range Partnership reaches consensus; includes wilderness!

Quite a few North Forkers were down-valley yesterday for another Whitefish Range Partnership meeting. This was the big one: a vote on the entire package — everything from motorized recreation to trails to timber production to wilderness. Amazingly, they pulled it off. It is truly astonishing that this broad a coalition of interests was able to agree on a package concerning so many contentious issues. The final wind-up – and a big feed – is in mid-November.

Debo Powers wrote up the big event . . .

After over a year of meetings, negotiations, and writing reports, the Whitefish Range Partnership reached consensus Monday night on the final document containing recommendations concerning the Whitefish Range.  These recommendations will go to the Flathead National Forest as they begin the process for creating the new Forest Plan.

The Whitefish Range Partnership is a group of citizens, representing a wide diversity of viewpoints, who worked collaboratively to come up with a unified position.  The group includes loggers, hikers, snowmobilers, dirt bikers, mountain bikers, backcountry horsemen, anglers, hunters, wildlife lovers, wilderness advocates, and North Fork landowners.

The collaborative process worked well under the facilitation of former Republican legislator, Bob Brown.  The final report covers fire mitigation, fisheries, timber, trails, weeds, wildlife, motorized and non-motorized recreation, and wilderness.  The plan includes something for everyone.  After listening to each other for a year, the group was able to come to agreement on even the most controversial issues, such as wilderness and snowmobile play areas.  Ten North Fork landowners played a significant role and attended most of the meetings.

The final report will recommend wilderness in the Hefty/Tuchuck/Thompson-Seton/Nasukoin areas in the northern part of the Whitefish Range with a one mile fire mitigation buffer between wilderness and private land.  The report also recommends a new snowmobile play area around McGinnis Creek and new mountain bike trails most of which are in the southern portion of the Whitefish Range.  The full text of the agreement will be available on the NFPA web site soon after the final Whitefish Range Partnership meeting in mid-November. Printed copies will be placed at Sondreson Community Hall and other locations.

Frank Vitale: Thoughts of a Wilderness Traveler

Editor’s note: At the Whitefish Range Partnership meeting where wilderness was first discussed, Frank stood up and read the following aloud to the assembled representatives and observers. The whole room burst into applause when he finished.

For those of you who know him, try to imagine Frank’s delivery, rhythm and passion as you read this . . .

It’s lost on me that some people feel wilderness locks them out and locks up the land.

I’ve spent the better part of my life traveling through wild country, both on foot and horseback. When I was younger I got angry with those who would oppose wilderness protection for the last of the wild country. But as I get older and a bit more gray around the muzzle my perspective has changed. I sort of feel sorry and even feel a bit of pity for those who feel wilderness is a bad thing. Perhaps they are afraid, intimidated or just insecure to venture beyond their comfort zone.

For me, wilderness is the greatest freedom I’ve ever known. I’m not alone in these feelings. Just ask anyone who has spent time traveling in wild country. There’s a feeling that’s hard to describe – a sort of magic when I cross the line. It’s the key that unlocks the universe. Ian Tyson says it so well in song:

It’s way out back and the back of beyond
Where the nights are dark as coal,
Where the circle stays unbroken,
Where the rocks begin to roll.

The mules feel it too. The whole string’s cadence of hoof beats picks up; their ears stand erect and forward as if they can read “Wilderness Boundary” on the old Forest Service sign. I can breathe a whole lot easier.

In this fast, crazy world of computers, cell phones, gigabytes, megabytes, YouTube and all this cyberspace stuff, I have my doubts all this technology has really set us free. For me, the sound of well-shod hooves on the rocks, the creaking of saddle leather, the pungent smell of good honest mule sweat tempered with the sounds and smells of the wilderness – That’s Freedom!

I’ll go as far as I need to go to make camp where there’s good water, good grass. I’ll turn the stock out, hobble a few so they don’t stray too far. I’ll hit the bedroll under the biggest, brightest mantle of stars you could ever put your eyes on. I’ll wake early; jingle the mules in; sip stout coffee while feedbags are flipped for the last of the grain.

While saddling up, the hard reality sinks in. We’re about at the end of this gig . . .  Riding down through the Front Range I’m thinking . . .  A hundred years ago, Charlie Russell wrote in his memoirs, “Trails Plowed Under,”

“They ain’t making wild country anymore. We stole most of it from the Indians for a dollar a day. That was cowboy pay in them days.”

As the trail winds its way east through steep, narrow, limestone canyons the wind begins to pick up as it usually does in this country . . .  Wait, I thought I heard some far-off distant singing; a chanting sound fading in and out with each passing gust . . .  Must be my imagination . . .  No, there it is again . . .  Listen . . .  A chill runs through me . . .  Is it the spirits of the “old ones” who passed this way a long time ago?

I’m still riding and I’m still thinking . . .  When I get too old to put my foot in the stirrup and swing into the saddle I’m going to make one request . . .  Just wheel me up to the edge of the wilderness so I can look in one more time to a place and a time where I found true freedom.

Larry Wilson: North Fork wilderness debated

Larry Wilson talks about the issue of wilderness designation on the North Fork and forest management in general . . .

Last fall, I wrote about the formation of a group which named itself the Whitefish Range Partnership. Their goal was, and is, to write a draft Forest Plan for the Whitefish Range to present to the Flathead National Forest as they begin the process of writing a new plan for the entire Flathead National Forest.

The group has met twice monthly since last fall, with many committee meetings in between. Also meeting with the group have been Glacier View and Flathead Forest officials who acted as resource support. There have also been presentations by other resource folks with special expertise, like wildlife experts Tim Their, Jim Williams and John Weaver.

With a lot of give and take, the group has completed and agreed on most issues, including timber, fire, river corridor and wildlife until only one issue remains — wilderness…

Continue reading . . .