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.