The Flathead National Forest is revising its Land and Resource Management Plan (referred to as the "revised forest plan") in compliance with the 2012 Planning Rule for the National Forest System.
The need for the proposed action is twofold: 1) significant changes have occurred in conditions and demands since the Flathead’s 1986 Forest Plan and 2) to ensure the adequacy of regulatory mechanisms regarding habitat protection across the national forests in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) in support of the de-listing of the grizzly bear. The Flathead National Forest is incorporating relevant direction from the NCDE Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy (GBCS) as part of its plan revision process. For more information about the forest plan amendments go to www.fs.usda.gov/goto/flathead/gbamend.
Highlights from the scoping comment period on the proposed action
The Flathead National Forest received over 20,000 public comments on the proposed action during the 70-day comment period that ended May 15. The input included comments on the proposal to amend the Helena, Kootenai, Lewis and Clark, and Lolo National Forest plans to integrate the NCDE GBCS. The Forest Service is preparing a single environmental impact statement for its revised forest plan and the amendments.
The comments received can be summarized as follows:
There were approximately 370 unique comments from individuals and commercial interests
Seven letters were from public agencies, including the Flathead Basin Commission, Flathead County Board of Commissioners, Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, Missoula County Community and Planning Services, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Approximately 30 letters were from non-profit organizations including American Rivers-American Whitewater-Pacific Rivers Council, Back Country Horsemen of Montana, Conservation Congress, Cottonwood Environmental Law Center and the Gallatin Wildlife Association, Defenders of Wildlife, Flathead Dirt Riders, Flathead Fat Tires, Flathead Lakers, Friends of the Wild Swan, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Headwaters Montana, International Mountain Biking Association, Montanans for Healthy Rivers, Montana Logging Association, Montana Pilots Association, Montana Native Plant Society, Montana Trout Unlimited, Montana Wilderness Association, National Parks Conservation Association, Ninemile Wildlife Group, North Fork Preservation Association, Recreational Aviation Foundation, Sierra Club, Swan View Coalition, Whitefish Legacy Partners/ The Whitefish Trail, Whitefish Range Partnership, The Wilderness Society, Wild Earth Guardians, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Winter Wildlands Alliance
The majority of the comments (approximately 19,880) received were form letters or petitions that were either identical in content or substantially similar and came from members of organizations
47 comments were entered into the Talking Points Collaborative Mapping (TPCM) tool
The Flathead National Forest plan revision team has reviewed all the comments and the responsible official will identify the significant issues that will be used to frame alternatives for the revised forest plan. The planning team will be using these issues and public comments to refine the proposed action and build alternatives. Once the analysis is completed, a draft environmental impact statement will be issued. The Forest Service plans to have this document available by January 2016. Once the draft environmental impact statement is issued there will be a 90-day comment period.
Proposed Action for the Revised Forest Plan
A proposed action for the revised forest plan was released in March 2015. The full text of the proposed action can be found below.