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  • United States Department of Agriculture

    Forest Service

    March 2010

    Revised Environmental Assessment

    CHR Motorized Route and Area Designation Project (CHR Project)

    Hungry Horse and Glacier View Ranger Districts, Flathead National Forest Flathead County, Montana

  • CHR MOTORIZED ROUTE AND AREA

    DESIGNATION PROJECT

    Revised Environmental Assessment

    Flathead National Forest

    Hungry Horse and Glacier View Ranger Districts

    Flathead County, Montana

    March 2010

    Lead Agency: USDA Forest Service

    Responsible Official: Jimmy DeHerrera, District Ranger

    For Further Information, Please Contact: Michele Draggoo, Planning Team Leader (406-387-3827)

    or Paula Peterson, Recreation and Lands Specialist (406-387-3818)

    Hungry Horse and Glacier View Ranger Districts

    Flathead National Forest

    10 Hungry Horse Drive (P.O. Box 190340)

    Hungry Horse, MT 59901

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and

    activities based on race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs,

    sexual orientation, or marital or family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)

    Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program

    information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at

    (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD). To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director,

    Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW,

    Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal

    opportunity provider and employer.

  • CHR MOTORIZED ROUTE AND AREA

    DESIGNATION PROJECT

    REVISED ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Introduction……… …………………………………………………....……... 1

    Background …………………………………………………………………… 2

    Scope ……………………………………………………………………….... 4

    Purpose and Need for Action …………………………………….......……… 4

    Public Involvement …………………………………………………………... 5

    Alternatives …………………………………………………………………… 9

    Comparison of Alternatives………………………………………………….. 16

    Affected Environment and Environmental Effects

    Recreation, Inventoried Roadless, Wild and Scenic River, and

    Scenic Values …………………………………………………………. 18

    Threatened, Endangered, and Regionally Sensitive Plants ……….. 32

    Noxious Weeds ……………………………………………………….. 37

    Hydrology and Soils …………………………………………………. 43

    Fisheries ………………………………………………………………. 50

    Wildlife ……………………………………………………………….. 55

    Heritage Resources …………………………………………………... 71

    Literature Cited ………………………………………………………………. 72

    Planning Team Members ……………………………………………………. 73

    Organizations, Government Agencies, and Individuals Consulted about

    this Project ……………………………………………………………………. 74

    Appendix A (Maps)

    Map 1: Glacier View Ranger District Vicinity

    Map 2: Hungry Horse Ranger District Vicinity

    Map 3: Border River Access (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 1

  • Map 3A: Border River Access (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative

    2 & 3

    Map 4: Wurtz (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 1

    Map 4A: Wurtz (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 5: Sondreson (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 1

    Map 5A: Sondreson (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 6: Ford (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 1

    Map 6A: Ford (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 7: Polebridge River Access Site (North Fork Flathead River) –

    Alternative 1

    Map 7A: Polebridge River Access Site (North Fork Flathead River) –

    Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 8: Coal Creek (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 1

    Map 8A: Coal Creek (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 9: Road # 10923 (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 1

    Map 9A: Road # 10923 (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 10: Camas (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 1

    Map 10A: Camas (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 11: Big Creek (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 1

    Map 11A: Big Creek (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 12: Huckleberry (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 1

    Map 12A: Huckleberry (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 13: Glacier Rim (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 1

    Map 13A: Glacier Rim (North Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 14: Essex (Middle Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 1

    Map 14A: Essex (Middle Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 15: Paola River Access (Middle Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 1

    Map 15A: Paola River Access (Middle Fork Flathead River) – Alternative

    2 & 3

    Map 16: West Glacier River Access (Middle Fork Flathead River) –

    Alternative 1

  • Map 16A: West Glacier River Access (Middle Fork Flathead River) –

    Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 17: Blankenship (Middle Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 1

    Map 17A: Blankenship (Middle Fork Flathead River) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 18: South Fork River Access (South Fork Flathead River) –

    Alternative 1

    Map 18A: South Fork River Access (South Fork Flathead River) –

    Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 19: Pioneer (Flathead River) – Alternative 1

    Map 19A: Pioneer (Flathead River) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 20: Abbot (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 1

    Map 20A: Abbot (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 21: Riverside (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 1

    Map 21A: Riverside (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 22: Logan Creek (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 1

    Map 22A: Logan Creek (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 23: Lost Johnny Point Boat Ramp (Hungry Horse Reservoir) –

    Alternative 1

    Map 23A: Lost Johnny Point Boat Ramp (Hungry Horse Reservoir) –

    Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 24: Lid Creek (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 1

    Map 24A: Lid Creek (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 25: Flossy Bay (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 1

    Map 25A: Flossy Bay (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 26: Canyon Boat (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 1

    Map 26A: Canyon Boat (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 27: Devil’s Corkscrew (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 1

    Map 27A: Devil’s Corkscrew (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 2 &

    3

    Map 28: Hungry Horse Track Area – Alternative 1

    Map 28A: Hungry Horse Track Area – Alternative 2 & 3

    Map 29: Cedar Flats – Alternative 1

  • Map 29A: Cedar Flats – Alternative 2

    Map 29B: Cedar Flats – Alternative 3

    Map 30: FK&L (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 1

    Map 30A: FK&L (Hungry Horse Reservoir) – Alternative 2 & 3

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    1

    INTRODUCTION

    The Forest Service (FS) has prepared this revised Environmental Assessment (EA) in accordance

    with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other relevant Federal and State laws

    and regulations. The CHR Project will be conducted under the guidance of the Flathead National

    Forest Land and Resource Management Plan or Forest Plan (USDA Forest Service 1985). The

    abbreviation - CHR - is a way to reference the specific geographical areas in this project

    including, Cedar Flats, Hungry Horse Reservoir, Hungry Horse Track, and the Wild and Scenic

    River Corridor on the Hungry Horse and Glacier View Ranger Districts, Flathead National

    Forest.

    This EA discloses the project’s foreseeable environmental effects for consideration in

    determining whether to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The reports cited in

    this EA and additional project documentation are available in the CHR Project File located at the

    Hungry Horse Ranger Station, Hungry Horse, Montana.

    The CHR Project proposes to designate motorized use in Cedar Flats, Hungry Horse Track,

    Hungry Horse Reservoir, the Wild and Scenic River Corridors of the North Fork Flathead River

    and Middle Fork Flathead River, and locations on the South Fork and main stem of the Flathead

    River (see Maps 1 and 2 in Appendix A).

    The original EA was distributed for comment in early July 2009. Appendix B, which provides a

    summary of comments raised by the public and the responses by the Interdisciplinary Team, has

    been added to this revised EA.

    Based on this public comment, it was evident that the public did not have a clear understanding

    of the no action alternative. We have clarified this alternative and its effects in this revised EA.

    To help clarify this, new maps of the no action have been added to Appendix A. We have also

    added more information about the current regulations and processes that are providing direction

    for travel management. Public comments received on the original EA were also used to help

    clarify other sections of this revised EA – our responses to these comments in Appendix A

    indicate where in this revised EA we have added or clarified information.

    The Flathead National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan) establishes

    management direction for the Flathead National Forest. Project implementation consistent with

    this direction is the process by which desired conditions described by the Forest Plan are

    achieved. Brief descriptions of the management areas (MA) involved in the CHR Project are

    included below.

    MA 7 This MA consists of timberlands in areas of high scenic value. Manage the timber

    resource with roads in a manner that compliments and protects high scenic values. Maintain

    or create natural-appearing, diverse patterns of vegetation using various silvicultural systems.

    Designated as suitable for timber management and timber harvest will be scheduled.

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    2

    MA 10 This MA consists of lands designated as Administrative Sites. Provide for the

    continued use of existing facilities at Administrative sites through a periodic planned

    preventative maintenance program of sanitary, water, and solid waste systems, buildings, and

    other structures.

    MA 15 This MA consists of timberlands where timber management with roads is

    economical and feasible. A major goal is to emphasize cost-efficient production of timber

    while protecting the productive capacity of the land and timber resource.

    MA 16 This MA consists of timberlands where timber management is feasible using aerial

    logging systems. The lands are generally steep breaklands where road building may be

    economically prohibitive or environmentally unsound. A major goal is to emphasize cost-

    efficient production of timber while protecting the productive capacity of the land and timber

    resource. Roadless logging methods will be used, unless site-specific analysis determines

    that a roaded system is economically and environmentally prudent.

    MA 18 National Forest System lands designated for wild, scenic, and recreation river

    management under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Manage each segment of the Flathead

    Wild and Scenic River unit in a manner consistent with the classification assigned to it.

    Maintain the scenic, ecological, and recreational integrity of the resource through responsible

    management. Emphasize visitor contact and education.

    BACKGROUND

    The current travel management efforts occurring on many National Forests has a history

    beginning with Executive Orders 11644 (1972) and Executive Order 11989 (1977) directing

    public agencies to manage off-highway vehicle (OHV) use on public lands. Current management

    of motorized travel on the Flathead National Forest falls under Forest orders pursuant to 36 Code

    of Federal Regulations (CFR) 261.54 prohibiting motorized use on specific National Forest

    System (NFS) roads, trails and areas.

    2001 OHV ROD

    Cross-country motor vehicle use is prohibited in Montana under the January 2001 Off-Highway

    Vehicle (OHV) Record of Decision and Plan Amendment for Montana, North Dakota, and

    Portions of South Dakota (2001 OHV ROD). In January 2001, the Forest Service and Bureau of

    Land Management (BLM) issued a joint decision to prohibit cross-country motor vehicle use on

    all National Forest System (NFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands in a

    three state area except within 300 feet of roads and trails for access to a campsite. The decision

    amended nine forest plans, including the Flathead Forest Plan. It also directed all National

    Forests to set up a schedule for completing site-specific planning that would designate

    appropriate uses on all system and non-system roads and trails. This project helps meet the

    follow-up site-specific analysis directed by the 2001 OHV ROD.

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    3

    Subsequent to this ROD, the Flathead National Forest implemented a special order in 2001

    (#F10-024-L-01) to prohibit cross-country motorized travel. Specifically, this order stated that

    possessing or using motorized vehicles on NFS lands within the boundaries of the Flathead

    National Forest are prohibited when there is no visible, clearly evident, two track or single track

    routes that are present. The width of the motorized vehicle must also fit the size of the road or

    trail profile. The order also indicates that cross-country travel up to 300 feet from a road or trail

    to reach a dispersed campsite is permissible.

    2005 Travel Management Rule

    On November 9, 2005, the Forest Service published final travel management regulations in the

    Federal Register (FR Vol. 70, No. 216-Nov. 9, 2005, pp 68264-68291). This final Travel

    Management Rule requires designation of those roads, trails, and areas that are open to motor

    vehicle use on National Forests. Under the rule only roads that are part of a National

    Forest transportation system may be designated for motorized use. The final rule prohibits the

    use of motor vehicles off designated NFS roads, trails and areas, as well as use of motor vehicles

    on roads and trails that are not specifically designated for public use. This final rule was issued

    because the older regulations allowed, restricted, or prohibited motor vehicle travel when those

    uses were less widely available, less powerful, and less capable of cross-country travel than

    today’s models. The growing popularity and capabilities of OHVs requires new regulations so

    that the Forest Service can continue to provide these opportunities while sustaining the health of

    the NFS lands and resources.

    District(s) Motor Vehicle Use Map

    In accordance with the 2005 Travel Management Rule, following a decision on this project, a

    Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) will be published identifying all roads, trails and areas that

    are designated for motor vehicle use on both the Glacier View and Hungry Horse Ranger

    Districts. The MVUM will specify the classes of vehicles and, if appropriate, the times of year

    for which use is designated. A MVUM is required to be printed every year and should reflect

    access management decisions made over the year, if any. Local review of designations will be

    conducted as needed over time. Additional routes not included in this project are not precluded

    from future consideration for inclusion in a MVUM.

    2009 Travel Analysis Directives

    The CHR Project was initiated in March 2008 following the direction of the 2005 Travel

    Management Rule. Subsequently, the FS has issued travel management directives (December 9,

    2008). These final directives consolidate direction for travel planning for both NFS roads and

    NFS trails in Forest Service Manual (FSM) 7710 and Forest Service Handbook (FSH) 7709.55.

    The final directives rename roads analysis ‘‘travel analysis’’ and streamline some of its

    procedural requirements.

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    4

    FSM 7712 paragraph 1 clarified that travel analysis is not required to inform decisions related to

    the designation of roads, trails, and areas for those administrative units and ranger districts that

    have issued a proposed action as of January 8, 2009.

    Due to the anticipated and limited scope of the decision to be made (designating motorized use to

    site-specific roads, trails, and areas in Cedar Flats, Hungry Horse Reservoir, Wild and Scenic

    River Corridor, Hungry Horse Track, and Pioneer and South Fork River Access Sites), the scope

    of the CHR Project was limited to part “1b” of Forest Service Handbook (FSH) 7709.55 Chapter

    20.02. – “conduct travel analysis to inform decisions related to designation or roads, trails and

    areas for motor vehicle use.” The Responsible Official has the discretion to determine the

    amount of detail that is appropriate and practicable for travel analysis (FSM 7712.1).

    SCOPE

    The Hungry Horse and Glacier View Ranger Districts have gone through numerous planning

    efforts that have resulted in motorized access decisions. These access decisions will be carried

    forward for display on the MVUM as the existing open motorized transportation system. This

    MVUM will be published following a decision on this site-specific project. The CHR Project is

    limited to the specific areas described below in the purpose and need because these areas were

    identified through a collaborative process as needing specific changes to the existing motorized

    system.

    The CHR Project was not intending to revisit recent motorized access decisions and it was

    limited in the consideration of new wheeled motorized use because of current Flathead Forest

    Plan grizzly bear standards (Amendment 19). These standards impose limitations to increases in

    motorized access routes. Finally, this project was not considering over-snow motorized vehicle

    use since this use is guided by the Flathead’s Amendment 24 Winter Motorized Recreation Plan.

    PURPOSE AND NEED FOR ACTION The purpose of this site-specific project is to restrict and designate a system of motorized roads,

    trails and areas that continue to provide access to the Wild and Scenic River Corridor (North

    Fork Flathead and Middle Fork Flathead Rivers) and Hungry Horse Reservoir. The project also

    aims to manage motorized use within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) area adjacent to the

    cities of Columbia Falls and Hungry Horse. The formal designation of wheeled motorized travel

    is a requirement of the 2005 Travel Management Rule.

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    5

    PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT

    Summary of Public Involvement Process

    In January 2008, the CHR Project was listed in the Flathead National Forest’s Schedule of

    Proposed Actions (SOPA). This listing informed the public of our plan to identify the need for

    change in designating wheeled motorized vehicle routes and areas in order to implement the

    2005 Travel Management Rule. The CHR Project has appeared quarterly in the SOPA since the

    first listing. The SOPA list is displayed nationally on the Forest Service’s Washington Office

    website, and locally on the Flathead National Forest website.

    In addition to the project being identified on the SOPA, a letter was sent on January 10, 2008 to

    approximately 220 individuals, government agencies, organizations, and groups. This letter

    announced that the Hungry Horse and Glacier View Ranger (HH/GV) Districts were beginning

    the process of evaluating roads, trails, and areas available for motorized vehicle use as directed

    in the 2005 Travel Management Rule. The letter also invited the public to an open house at the

    (HH/GV) District Office, to learn about, discuss, and provide feedback for the Forest Service to

    consider in relation to the 2005 Travel Management Rule. The open house was also advertised

    in two local newspapers, the Hungry Horse News and the Flathead Beacon. The open house was

    held on January 24, 2008, and approximately 50 people attended. Maps were posted at the open

    house that identified the initial need for change areas and Forest Service staff was available to

    explain the travel planning process, provide information, answer questions, and receive feedback

    from those in attendance. This same information was also included on the Flathead National

    Forest’s internet website at http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/flathead/nepa/trav_mngmt.shtml. In addition

    to the comments received at the open house, we received about 35 letters, emails, other

    correspondence, phone calls, and visits that provided us with initial feedback.

    Subsequent to the initial open house, the Forest Service reviewed the comments and feedback

    from the public and began refining a site-specific proposed action. On March 3, 2008, a scoping

    letter was sent to approximately 256 individuals, government agencies, organizations, and groups

    requesting public input on the CHR Project. The letter explained the travel planning process and

    identified specific desired changes to the existing motorized system. Changes were identified

    based on Forest Service knowledge and experience in the areas identified, past and ongoing

    discussions with users of these areas, and comments received. The proposed changes were also

    reflective of the collaborative efforts and discussions which occurred at the January 24th

    , 2008

    open house. As a result of the scoping letter, we received letters, emails, other correspondence,

    phone calls, and office visits from approximately 65 individuals, groups, and organizations

    providing feedback and comments on our proposed action.

    In addition to the two letters sent out by the Forest Service and the open house, the CHR Project

    was publicized in the Daily Inter Lake, the Hungry Horse News, and the Flathead Beacon

    newspapers, each of which published information and stories concerning the CHR Project

    between January and March 2008.

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    6

    The EA was distributed to the public in early July 2009. Over 60 EAs were mailed to those

    people who provided comments during the scoping process. The remaining people on the

    mailing list identified above were sent a letter mentioning the availability of the EA along with a

    link to the Flathead National Forest internet website where the EA could be viewed

    electronically. Comments were invited for a 30-day period after a legal notice notifying the

    availability of the EA was published in the Daily Inter Lake. About 50 people sent in comments

    on the EA. Responses to those comments will be included in an appendix to the Decision Notice.

    Summary of Scoping Comments

    Access: Comments concerned road maintenance, closing the Lost Johnny Road, and prohibiting

    motorized use on various trails/roads. The ongoing and extensive closure of motorized

    roads/trails upset many people, while others wanted more roads/trails closed to motorized use.

    Botany: Comments centered on the spread and control of weeds.

    Climate: Comments focused on increased emissions concerns and the desire to ban motorized

    use.

    Economics: Commenters requested budget analysis, questioned how routes would be

    maintained, or stated that roads/trails must not be closed without a full economic analysis.

    Fish/Hydrology: The effects, including cumulative effects, of roads and road density on riparian

    areas and fish were of concern. Sedimentation, runoff, water quality, and erosion were also

    commented on.

    Fire/Fuels: Commenters felt that designating the Cedar Flats area would lead to more use and a

    higher probability of fire. Some felt it was unfair to reduce fuels in the WUI just to designate the

    area.

    Policies/Plans/Regulations: There was dissatisfaction with what was considered as an

    unreasonably short comment period. Some felt only user created routes should be considered

    while others felt these routes should not be considered. Many wanted the project to have a

    broader scope and some wanted a full analysis of the entire road system documented in an

    Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Several commenters felt the travel management process

    must begin with a clearly established and inventoried baseline of existing roads and trails, and

    some wanted the cumulative effects analysis to consider all motorized closures over the past 30

    years. Other comments wanted more monitoring, adequate rule enforcement (particularly for

    illegal off-road use), and to meet Forest Plan Amendment Amendment 19. Several people

    wanted more complete maps, rationale for why access in these areas would be changed, and

    some advocated a 50/50 sharing between motorized and non-motorized use.

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    7

    Recreation: General: Considerations should include access for people with disabilities and the impact of

    noise on non-motorized users. We heard concerns for and against the 300 feet dispersed

    camping designations and about the effect of motorized use on natural resources. Many

    commenters felt that the Forest Service should stop closing roads/trails, favor the re-opening of

    closed roads/trails, and some questioned the 50 inches rule which restricts the size of permissible

    motorized vehicles in particular areas. Many questioned the imbalance between the number of

    miles or trails open to motorized use versus non-motorized use and some felt the needs and rights

    of motorized users are not being given as much consideration as those of non-motorized users.

    Cedar Flats: Many felt this area should be designated as non-motorized and some questioned if

    the Forest Service could adequately monitor the area. Others were worried about the effects of

    dust and noise on the neighbors. Specific roads and areas for closure were mentioned; some

    wanted a designated speed limit, a curfew, and a ban on fires and shooting in the area. Other

    comments mentioned heavy littering, parking, and noxious weeds as current problems. Many

    commenters felt that designating this area would make all of these problems worse. Bonneville

    Power Authority (BPA) set forth conditions for use near the powerline.

    On the other hand, many comments favored the inclusion of Cedar Flats as motorized, and

    wanted the MVUM to designate additional off-highway vehicles (OHV) areas as they felt many

    trails/roads currently not designated are well suited to OHV use. Others wanted an OHV park

    constructed and many felt that since OHV use is so limited on the rest of the forest, that use

    should prevail in areas where it is legal.

    Hungry Horse Reservoir: Some comments did not want to allow access below the high-water

    mark in the reservoir and to limit dispersed camping in this area. Conversely, others wanted

    more access and dispersed camping allowed without restriction.

    Hungry Horse Track: Some commenters wanted the entire track area open for motorized use,

    the designation of an OHV park in the area, and the construction of loop trails with no restriction

    on the dates of use.

    Swan Crest: Many people were unhappy about the proposed seasonal restrictions and the

    previous loss of trails under the West Side Reservoir decision. Others felt that motorcycle use on

    the Swan Crest trails causes unacceptable resource damage and displaces hikers and horses.

    Wild & Scenic River Corridor: Some advocated unrestricted motorized and camping access

    below the high-water mark. Others wanted more restrictions because poorly controlled access

    could destroy habitat and reduce the natural character of the corridor.

    Silviculture: Commenters noted that open roads lead to more firewood cutting and more

    damage to natural systems, e.g. old-growth, snags, etc.

    Soils: Comments indicated concerns that motorized use results in soil compaction and erosion.

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    8

    Wildlife: Commenters pointed out that open roads expose game animals to heavy hunting

    pressure and that threatened and endangered species (TES) must be protected. Others addressed

    concerns that higher road densities affect wildlife and that landscape linkages must be

    maintained. For the Cedar Flats area, commenters on both sides of the issue indicated specific

    routes that should or should not be opened.

    Issue Development Process

    The Interdisciplinary Team (ID Team) reviewed all comments received in response to the

    scoping and collaboration letters to identify issues, determine appropriate analysis procedures,

    and identify alternatives to the proposed action. Some comments were consistent with the

    purpose and need for the project. Others were beyond the scope of this project, the Forest Plan or

    other regulatory framework addressed some, some were beyond the geographical influence of

    this project, and some did not pertain to this specific proposal. Comments and concerns that fell

    into these latter categories were considered irrelevant to this project-specific assessment and

    were not addressed.

    The remaining comments were examined to determine how they could best be addressed in the

    Environmental Assessment (EA). A few comments were best addressed by developing an

    alternative to the proposed action. These concerns became the issues that are described below.

    Other comments were best addressed by disclosing the effects of implementing the proposed

    action and its alternatives, or by developing design features common to all action alternatives.

    Some comments and further refinement of the proposed action resulted in identifying and adding

    the South Fork Flathead River Access and Pioneer River Access to the alternatives. In addition,

    after scoping was completed, it was brought to the ID Team’s attention that the proposed

    seasonal restrictions for the Swan Crest Motorized Trails were not consistent with the sideboards

    developed for this project. The sideboard was to honor access management decisions made in

    previous projects. Since the West Side Reservoir Post-Fire Project decision indicated these trails

    were open, access management for these trails will not be changed in this project. This aspect of

    the proposal is no longer being carried forward in this EA.

    The project file contains further information on the comments received during scoping, including

    how the ID Team accounted for them during the analysis process.

    Issues Used for Alternative Development

    The following issue was identified from the scoping comments and used to develop an

    alternative to the proposed action.

    1. Motorized access should be restricted south of the Bonneville Power Administration power line in the Cedar Flats area and should be moved away from private land in the

    northeast area of Cedar Flats. Designated trails should consider and improve safety

    conditions in the area. Together, these changes would reduce noise, traffic, and dust

    problems, while increasing safety for riders and neighbors.

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    9

    Issue Indicators:

    • Miles of open motorized routes south of the powerline

    • Motorized routes present near private land

    ALTERNATIVES CONSIDERED IN DETAIL

    This EA considered the proposed action (Alternative 2) and two other alternatives in detail.

    Alternative 1 is the no-action alternative, under which the project area would have no change in

    existing motorized vehicle use as described below. Alternative 3 represents a way to satisfy the

    purpose and need of the project that is different from the proposed action and it responds with a

    different emphasis to the Cedar Flats issue discussed earlier. Maps of the alternatives are

    provided in Appendix B.

    Alternative 1 (No-Action)

    This alternative represents the existing condition against which the other alternatives are

    compared. Council of Environmental Quality regulations (40 CFR 1502.14d) require that a no-

    action alternative is analyzed.

    Under this alternative, in the specific areas described below, existing motorized routes and areas

    are considered open unless otherwise specifically restricted or prohibited. The user-created

    routes within the areas described below existed prior to the 2001 OHV Forest Plan Amendment

    and consequently are considered open to motorized travel. This management is consistent with

    the direction found in the OHV Record of Decision and Plan Amendment for Montana, North

    Dakota and portions of South Dakota (2001) as well as Flathead National Forest Special Order

    #F10024L01. The existing condition also allows motorized wheeled cross-country travel to a

    dispersed campsite within 300 feet of roads or trails, unless it is otherwise prohibited.

    Cedar Flats

    The Cedar Flats area located just north of Columbia Falls includes approximately 10 miles of

    open yearlong roads and 14 miles of undesignated or user-created routes. User-created routes

    are available for motorized vehicles that fit the width of the existing track (refer to Map 29 in

    Appendix A). Some of the undesignated trails lead to private lands.

    Hungry Horse Track Area

    The moto-cross track area located adjacent to the Hungry Horse Ranger Station Administrative

    Site includes an adjacent 2 miles of undesignated or user-created routes with several open

    yearlong roads also adjacent to the track. This area is also located between private lands, Canyon

    Elementary School, Hungry Horse Water District, and the Bureau of Reclamation Dam facilities.

    An existing restriction (# D06-100-L-07) in the track area limits use to motorized vehicles 50

    inches or less. The area adjacent to the track that is accessed from Road #11080 is available for

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    10

    day use. There are approximately 1.5 miles of open yearlong road adjacent to the track in which

    only street legal vehicles are permitted (refer to Map 28 in Appendix A).

    Wild and Scenic River Corridors

    Designated open roads access a number of recreation sites (both developed and dispersed) within

    the Wild and Scenic River Corridor. At the following developed recreation sites within the Wild

    and Scenic River Corridor - Border, Polebridge, Big Creek, Glacier Rim, Paola, and West

    Glacier River Access Sites - motorized users travel below the high-water line to recreate and

    access the river Blankenship (refer to Maps 3, 7, 11, 13, 15, and 16 in Appendix A). In addition,

    motorized users travel within the following dispersed areas: Wurtz, Ford, Sondreson, Coal

    Creek, Road #10923, Camas, Huckleberry, Essex and Blankenship (refer to Maps 4, 6, 5, 8, 9,

    10, 12, 14, and 17 in Appendix A).

    Hungry Horse Reservoir Areas

    Motorized users travel from designated open roads to the following areas: Flossy Bay, Abbot

    Boat Launch, FK&L, Riverside, Canyon, Logan, Lost Johnny Point, Lid Creek, and Devil’s

    Corkscrew. During the early summer months when the reservoir is low these areas are typically

    below the high water line (refer to Maps 25, 20, 30, 21, 26, 22, 23, 24, and 27 in Appendix A).

    The FK&L area is a dispersed area used for camping adjacent to Emery Bay Campground along

    the east side of Hungry Horse Reservoir. There is approximately 0.2 miles of undesignated user

    created route that have been used by motorized vehicles to access a camping area or scenic point

    above the reservoir.

    Pioneer and South Fork River Access

    Motorized users travel from an open road to a dispersed boat launch area along the lower South

    Fork Flathead River, below Hungry Horse Dam, and at the Pioneer river access area (Graham’s

    Bar) along the Flathead River. The Pioneer area accesses a gravel bar and then continues onto a

    hardened channel. The forest prohibits overnight use in both of these areas (#D06-100-L-07 and

    #D07-085-L-10), thus cross-country travel for dispersed camping is prohibited (refer to Maps 18

    and 19 in Appendix A).

    Alternative 2 (Proposed Action)

    Alternative 2 would designate and restrict motorized use as described below and be displayed on

    the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) for the Hungry Horse and Glacier View Ranger Districts.

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    11

    Cedar Flats

    Alternative 2 would designate approximately 9 miles of existing undesignated or user created

    motorized routes in the Cedar Flats area, including the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA)

    utility corridor, open to vehicles ≤50 inches wide from June 1 through November 30. Two short

    segments would be constructed to connect existing trails, creating loop riding opportunities

    between the roads, trails, and the utility corridor. The trails in the Cedar Flats area would receive

    regular maintenance and if needed, erosion control devices such as rolling dips, water bars, and

    turnpikes (refer to Map 29A in Appendix A).

    Of the 10 miles of open yearlong road within this area, 2.0 miles of Road #10815 would be open

    seasonally to wheeled motorized vehicles from June 1 through November 30 (currently it is open

    yearlong). Gates would be installed and used to control access, and the remainder of the road

    would remain open yearlong.

    Designating the same season for both the road, trails, which include the BPA utility corridor,

    would allow for resource protection during the spring months and during the winter when

    freezing and thawing create soft roadbed conditions that can lead to resource damage.

    Prohibiting wheeled motor vehicle use during the winter provides snowmobiles and skiers safer

    recreational opportunities in the Cedar Flats area. The proposed routes avoid private lands and

    trails leading to dead ends.

    A prohibition against overnight use, target (recreational) shooting, and campfires would also be

    included in this alternative which would eliminate the exemption of 300 feet of motorized travel

    for the purposes of dispersed camping.

    Hungry Horse Track Area

    Alternative 2 would designate approximately 2 miles of existing routes as trails open to vehicles

    ≤50 inches from April 1 through November 30. The Hungry Horse Track would also be open to

    motorized vehicles April 1 through November 30. There are three road segments, each 0.5 miles

    long, which currently provide a total of 1.5 miles of yearlong open roads adjacent to the track.

    One segment would be available for highway legal vehicles; another segment would be

    designated for vehicles ≤50 inches; and on the third segment wheeled motorized use would be

    prohibited. The two segments designated for motorized use would be open from April 1 through

    November 30 (refer to Map 28A in Appendix A). The current prohibition for overnight camping

    is maintained in this alternative; therefore, the 300 foot motorized allowance for dispersed

    camping does not apply.

    Wild and Scenic River Corridors

    The designated open roads that access a number of recreation sites (both developed and

    dispersed) within the Wild and Scenic River Corridor would remain the same under this

    alternative. However, the 300 feet cross-country motorized allowance from designated roads to a

    dispersed campsite would be prohibited.

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    12

    Several cross-country travel areas would be designated for motorized use. At Polebridge, Paola,

    and West Glacier River Access Sites, users would be able to travel below the high-water line.

    Motorized users would also be able to travel within the cross-country travel areas of Wurtz,

    Ford, Sondreson, Coal Creek, Road #10923, Camas, Huckleberry, Essex and Blankenship. The

    300 feet cross-country motorized allowance from these areas to a dispersed campsite would be

    prohibited.

    Motorized use below the high-water line at Big Creek and Glacier Rim would be restricted to the

    developed boat launches. Motorized use below the high-water line that is not directly related to

    launching and retrieving boats would be prohibited.

    Motorized use below the high-water line onto the gravel or sand bars at the Border River Access

    Site would be prohibited (refer to Maps 3A through 17A in Appendix A).

    Hungry Horse Reservoir Areas

    The designated open roads that access the Hungry Horse Reservoir would remain the same under

    this alternative. This alternative would delineate and designate the areas of Lost Johnny Point

    Boat Launch, Flossy, Abbot Boat Launch, FK&L, Riverside, Canyon Creek, Logan, Lid Creek

    CG, and Devil’s Corkscrew for cross-country travel below the high-water line. Traveling 300

    feet from the designated cross-country areas to a dispersed campsite would be prohibited.

    Alternative 2 would designate approximately 0.2 miles of existing routes as yearlong trails for

    vehicles ≤50 inches. These trails are adjacent to the dispersed area known as FK&L on the east

    side of Hungry Horse Reservoir (refer to Maps 20A through 27A in Appendix A).

    Pioneer and South Fork River Access

    The open roads that access the Pioneer and South Fork River Access Areas would remain the

    same. This alternative would delineate and designate these two areas as depicted in Map 19A and

    18A in Appendix A). The delineated cross-country area at Pioneer would be reduced from its

    current size by eliminating motorized travel down the hardened channel but continuing

    motorized access to the gravel bar. The Forest would continue to enforce the forest order that

    prohibits overnight use in both of these areas.

    Alternative 3

    All proposed areas under Alternative 3 are identical to those in Alternative 2, with the exception

    of the Cedar Flats area.

    Cedar Flats

    Alternative 3’s description for Cedar Flats is similar as Alternative 2 except that 7 miles of

    undesignated or user-created routes would be designated as trails open for vehicles ≤50 inches

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    13

    wide from June 1 through November 30. Three short segments of new trail would be

    constructed to connect existing trail segments (refer to Map 29B in Appendix A). Alternative 3

    was designed to respond to issues related to noise and safety in the Cedar Flats area as raised in

    public comment letters. Motorized access would be prohibited on user created motorized routes

    found south of the power line and near private land in the northeast area of Cedar Flats. A

    prohibition against overnight use, target (recreational) shooting, and campfires would also be

    included in this alternative which would eliminate the exemption of 300 feet of motorized travel

    for the purposes of dispersed camping.

    Design Features Common to Alternatives 2 and 3

    • In areas that allow for dispersed camping 300 feet from open roads, trails, and areas,

    campsite selection must be completed by non-motorized means, and then accessed by the

    most direct route (no more than 300 feet) without causing resource damage. Resource

    damage would include rutting, or crossing of wet soils/meadows. Cutting, clearing, or

    damaging of trees or vegetation is not allowed to access dispersed camping spots.

    • Access management monitoring would be conducted to ensure soil and water protection, as well as provide habitat security. If monitoring shows new damage in an area allowing

    300 feet of cross-country motor vehicle use for the purpose of dispersed camping, a

    variety of tools may be used to enforce the MVUM – i.e. through our public outreach and

    education efforts, signage on the ground, physical barriers, emergency closures, and

    monitoring by our staff and law enforcement officers. Permanently closing areas to

    motorized use may also be an option. Emergency closures (i.e. restricting certain uses)

    can also be made at any time when unacceptable resource damage is occurring.

    • Upon publishing the Motor Vehicle Use Map for the selected alternative, the 2005 Motorized Travel Rule regulations would become enforceable on the District (36 CFR

    261.13). The Motor Vehicle Use Map would display those routes designated for

    motorized travel by the public by the class of vehicles and seasons of use. These actions

    are expected to greatly enhance the ability to enforce access management decisions. The

    regulatory requirements for posting prohibitions would no longer be applicable, and the

    problems associated with implementing and maintaining extensive prohibition posting

    would be eliminated. Hard-copy and electronic versions of the Motor Vehicle Use Map

    would be available to Forest users and would identify those roads, trails, and areas

    available for motorized use by the public. With the publication of this map, agency Law

    Enforcement Officers and Forest Protection Officers would have clear authority for

    issuing citations for violations of access management decisions.

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    14

    Alternatives Considered but Eliminated from Detailed Study

    • Consider an alternative that does not include undesignated areas, or non-system roads and trails.

    This proposal was discussed at length during alternative development with the conclusion that

    eliminating all of these areas and undesignated routes (or user-created routes) in the site-specific

    areas associated with this project was inappropriate for a number of reasons. It would have

    considerable impacts to the ongoing recreation uses that have been historically occurring for

    decades. These uses have not caused significant adverse environmental or social effects; when

    impacts have become a concern then special orders have been put in place to either eliminate or

    change uses or behaviors. In the Cedar Flats area, we have heard concerns from the neighboring

    landowners about noise, shooting, garbage, and campfires associated with motorized use – the

    proposed special order in Alternative 2 and 3 to prohibit target shooting, overnight camping, and

    campfires should help curb these behaviors. Additionally, Alternative 3 does not designate

    motorized trails south of the BPA power line corridor where many of the neighboring

    landowners live. The 2001 OHV Amendment allows these user created routes existing at the

    time of the decision (2001) to remain open for motorized use. In the absence of demonstrated

    significant negative effects from this use it is appropriate to honor past access management

    decisions which have been providing valuable public recreation opportunities. Therefore,

    analyzing an alternative in detail that eliminated all user created routes was not necessary to

    respond to the purpose and need of this project.

    • Consider an alternative that only allows motor vehicles below the high water line for the purposes of launching and retrieving a boat.

    The intention behind allowing access below the high water line is to maintain the public’s

    motorized access to water as long as adverse resource damage is not being caused. This

    motorized use is primarily identified for launching/retrieving boats, but would also include other

    water based activities such as fishing and camping. The above suggestion is being partially

    addressed in Alternatives 2 and 3 where some of the existing areas (Glacier Rim and Big Creek)

    would only allow motorized use below the high water line for the purposes of

    launching/retrieving a boat. It was not considered necessary to restrict motorized use in the other

    below high water line areas as there has not been resource/social conflicts associated with this

    use. If resource conflicts became a concern, and there is unacceptable resource damage

    occurring, these areas can be closed to motorized use or other means could be used to mitigate

    the impacts. Finally, the suggestion to limit or restrict motorized access below the high-water

    line would not be consistent with the purpose and need for the project which was to continue to

    provide access to areas such as Hungry Horse Reservoir and the Middle and North Forks of the

    Flathead River.

    • An alternative that does not construct connector trails in the Cedar Flats area.

    This suggested alternative was not considered in detailed study because the connector trails are

    designed to reduce the potential for new user routes to be created. Loop trails generally provide a

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    15

    more desirable experience for all users (e.g. equestrians, mountain bikers, hikers, and motorized

    riders) and can help with reducing congestion. The no action alternative analyzed in the

    recreation section provides information with respect to the effects of short non-connecting trails

    that currently occur in the area.

    • The suggestion to restrict all-terrain vehicles (ATV) to roads near Columbia Falls and Hungry Horse.

    In the action alternatives, motorized use adjacent to the two towns would be concentrated on a

    designated system of roads, trails and areas. Since motorized use of trails in those two areas

    have been providing recreational opportunities for several decades without significant negative

    environmental effects (as detailed in the original and revised EAs) restricting ATVs to roads near

    Columbia Falls and Hungry Horse was not evaluated in a fully detailed alternative. In order to

    respond to the concerns of noise, dust, shooting, garbage, and campfires which are often

    associated with motorized use in the Cedar Flats area, the proposed action alternatives

    (Alternatives 2 and 3) include a special order that would prohibit these types of uses.

    Resource specific analyses displayed in the EAs demonstrated that resource and land owner

    concerns could be addressed without eliminating and/or reducing all motorized use of trails. If

    motorized us of these areas had demonstrated an ongoing significant environmental or social

    effect then this suggestion would have been considered in detail, but since there was no evidence

    of this occurring, the suggestion was not brought forward in detail. The EAs displayed the effects

    of the existing trails in the two areas of concern (no action alternative) and also the effects of

    designating a portion of the existing trails to motorized use (Alternative 3 proposes less miles of

    motorized trail designation than Alternative 2 to address landowner concerns brought forward in

    public comments).

    The effects of authorizing the motorized use of the trails and areas have been displayed in the

    revised EA and are expected to maintain and/or enhance the existing natural environment and

    recreation experience. Therefore, analyzing an alternative in detail that eliminated motorized use

    on trails was not appropriate.

    • Future motorized demands require that more access be available instead of less.

    In our January 2008 letter and in the open house we provided to the public, we described how we

    intended to evaluate roads, trails, and areas available for motor vehicle use as directed in the

    2005 National Forest Service Travel Management Rule. We described our constraints or

    sideboards for this process – these were provided because of the limited time period we had to

    get this process completed and because the majority of the area covered by the two ranger

    districts have been incorporated in recent planning projects that have included travel

    management decisions (e.g. Westside Reservoir Post-Fire Project (2005), Robert-Wedge Post-

    Fire Project (2004), Moose Post-Fire Project (2002), Paint Emery Ecosystem Management

    Project (1999), Firefighter Project (2009)).

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    16

    Additionally, our current Forest Plan grizzly bear standards limit the areas of consideration for

    designating new wheeled motorized use. These same standards do not allow for an increase in

    motorized density. Adding another alternative that increases the number of roads and trails

    available for motorized use would not meet these Forest Plan standards.

    • An alternative is needed to establish a season of use for the Swan Crest Motorized Trails as first proposed. The need for resource protection during the wet spring and fall seasons

    has not been addressed, and even though there was a previous informal agreement not to

    restrict motorized recreation along these trails, the Forest Service should recognize the

    need for adaptive management, especially in light of ongoing resource damage.

    Page 8 of the revised EA explains why this proposal was dropped from being further assessed in

    the EA. The “previous informal agreement” the commenter alludes to is more than just that – it

    was a sideboard or criteria that helped to define and focus the project. This sideboard included

    not re-evaluating recent planning decisions related to roads and trails.

    The trails identified in the scoping letter that occurred in the Swan Crest were recently included

    and evaluated in a planning project known as the Westside Reservoir Post-Fire Project - this

    project was authorized in 2005 – with some of the road management actions still being

    implemented. Adding a seasonal restriction to these trails did not meet our sideboard we

    established very early on with this project, which is why we dropped them from being further

    evaluated. Additionally, in the event of resource damage that may be caused by motorized

    vehicles or by stock, bicycles, and by foot traffic, special orders can be implemented at any time

    to restrict these uses from occurring during particularly wet seasons.

    COMPARISON OF ALTERNATIVES

    To define the issues and provide a clear comparison of alternatives, the following table provides

    a summary of some of the CHR Project features by alternative.

    Table 1. Comparison of Features of the Alternatives

    Feature Alternative 1

    (No-Action Alternative)

    Alternative 2

    (Proposed Action) Alternative 3

    Cedar Flats Area

    Miles of Undesignated or User

    Created Motorized Routes ~14 miles ~9 miles ~7 miles

    Miles of User Created Motorized

    Routes South of the Powerline ~1.6 miles ~0.8 miles 0.0 miles

    Segments of new trail construction 0 2 3

    Seasonal Restrictions None Yes

    (6/1-11/30)

    Yes

    (6/1-11/30)

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

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    Feature Alternative 1

    (No-Action Alternative)

    Alternative 2

    (Proposed Action) Alternative 3

    Hungry Horse Track

    Miles of Roads & Trails Open to

    Vehicles ≤50” (Hungry Horse Track

    would stay open in all alternatives)

    2.0 miles 2.0 miles

    Miles of Roads Open To Street Legal

    Vehicles ~1.5 miles ~0.5 miles

    Seasonal Restrictions None Yes

    (4/1-11/30)

    Yes

    (4/1-11/30)

    Wild & Scenic River Corridor

    Motorized Travel Designations

    Motorized travel is

    allowed within 15 cross-

    country travel areas.

    Motorized cross-country

    travel up to 300 feet to a

    dispersed campsite is

    permissible.

    Motorized travel is designated within 14

    cross-country travel areas

    Motorized cross-country travel up to

    300 feet to a dispersed campsite is

    prohibited.

    Motorized travel below the high-water

    line at Glacier Rim and Big Creek are

    restricted to designated boat launches.

    Motorized travel below the high-water

    line at the Border River Access Site is

    prohibited.

    Hungry Horse Reservoir

    Motorized Travel Designations

    Motorized travel is

    allowed within Flossy

    Bay, Lost Johnny Point,

    Lid Creek, Abbot Boat

    Launch, FK&L, Riverside,

    Canyon, Logan, and

    Devil’s Corkscrew areas

    that have had historic use.

    Motorized travel is designated within

    Flossy Bay, Lost Johnny Point, Lid

    Creek, Abbot Boat Launch, FK&L,

    Riverside, Canyon, Logan, and Devil’s

    Corkscrew areas that have had historic

    use.

    Traveling 300 feet from the designated

    cross-country areas to a dispersed

    campsite would be prohibited.

    FK&L Area

    Miles of Routes Open to Highway

    Legal Vehicles ~0.2 miles 0 miles

    Miles of Routes Open to Vehicles

    ≤50″ 0 miles ~0.2 miles

    Pioneer and South Fork River Access

    Would the Pioneer Access and the

    Boat Launch on Lower South Fork

    River be Open to Motorized Use?

    Yes Yes

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    18

    AFFECTED ENVIRONMENT/

    ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS

    This section provides a brief summary of the existing resource conditions and a discussion of the

    potential impacts of the alternatives. The environmental effects analysis provides the necessary

    information to determine whether to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

    Recreation and Wild and Scenic River

    Affected Environment

    Introduction

    Information for this analysis was based upon observations made during routine visits,

    maintenance and surveys of trails, roads, and recreation facilities. Road and trail mileages

    reported were obtained from the Flathead National Forest Geographic Information Systems

    (GIS) database.

    The State of Montana governs the operation of off-highway vehicles (OHV) with respect to

    operation, registration, licensing, noise, and spark arresters. Off-highway vehicles operating on

    public land for recreational purposes must be registered and display a decal placed in a

    conspicuous location on the machine. Off-highway vehicles operating on public roads including

    National Forest System roads must display a license plate, be operated by a licensed rider (16

    years of age and older), and the machine must be outfitted with the required safety, noise, and

    emission equipment. The State of Montana requires a noise limit of 96 decibels for OHV as well

    as proper spark arresters when on public land.

    Motorized access for dispersed camping on the HH/GV Ranger Districts is managed under the

    existing Flathead National Forest Special Order #F10024L01 which states possessing or using

    motorized vehicles off National Forest System Roads when no visible, clearly evident, two track

    or single track routes are present is prohibited. Cross-country motorized travel up to 300 feet

    from a road or trail to reach a dispersed campsite is permissible.

    Wild and Scenic River Corridor

    The North and Lower Middle Forks of the Flathead were congressionally designated as a Wild

    and Scenic River in 1978. The designation means each segment would be managed in a manner

    consistent with the classification assigned to it (Wild, Scenic, or Recreation). The scenic,

    ecological, and recreational integrity of the river and corridor resources will be maintained

    through responsible management. The North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River share

    natural environment features and recreation experiences for the user. The existing management

    of the corridor provides for mitigations to protect the natural environment and recreation

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    19

    experience. These mitigations include seasonal road closures, camping restrictions, human waste

    containment requirements, food storage regulations, and restrictions on motorized use for both

    river segments. The recreation program uses a limits of acceptable change (LAC) process which

    is outlined in the River Recreation Direction and River Management Plan. This plan describes a

    process and monitoring indicators to guide in the identification of changed conditions within the

    corridor. As an example, the river rangers monitor the incidence of litter along the shoreline,

    numbers of encounters with other float parties, and evidence of human use (fire rings/human

    waste).

    The North Fork River corridor, which falls within the analysis area of the CHR Project, was

    designated as scenic from the Canadian border south to the Camas Bridge and recreational

    downstream to the confluence with the Middle Fork. A scenic designation is characterized by

    accessibility by roads or trails, minimal timber harvests while taking visual integrity into

    consideration, minimal visibility of structures from the river, and manage fire so it has the least

    possible impact on the river corridor. A recreational designation is characterized by accessibility

    by roads and available to motorized travel, timber harvest is acceptable, but visual integrity on

    the landscape from the corridor is very important, and structures are common but managed for

    visual integrity. Scenic and recreational designations allow for motorized access to the river.

    Motorized river use is limited to 10 horse power engines below the Camas Bridge.

    The Lower Middle Fork from the confluence with Bear Creek to the confluence with the Lower

    South Fork, is designated as recreational within the analysis area. However, the portion of the

    river from Bear Creek to Essex is administratively managed as wild. The Lower Middle Fork is

    available for motorized river travel restricted to 10 horse power engines or less.

    The lands within the wild and scenic designated corridor for both the North Fork and Lower

    Middle Forks are shared between the Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park. On

    the North Fork, the land from the center of the deepest active channel to the west (or river right)

    is Flathead National Forest. Conversely, the land from the center of the deepest active channel

    to the east (or river left) is Glacier National Park is. On the Lower Middle Fork, the land south

    of the mean high-water line (or river right bank) is Flathead National Forest and the land north of

    the mean high-water line is Glacier National Park. Congressionally, the Forest Service has the

    administrative jurisdiction for both forks; however, both agencies coordinate annually on patrols,

    monitoring, and enforcement.

    New Wild and Scenic River Resource Regulations were put in place during the summer of 2008

    (# D07-079-L-08, #D06-108-L-08, #D07-080-L-08). These regulations require overnight users

    within the Wild and Scenic River Corridor on the North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River

    who are not using a site with a permanent toilet to contain and pack out their solid human waste.

    The regulations also set stay limits, and in some cases prohibit camping and campfires at several

    developed sites. The regulations were implemented to provide for health and safety.

    In both the North Fork and the Lower Middle Fork, existing roads provide users access into the

    designated river corridor for a myriad of uses including launching/retrieving rafts, fishing, and

    kayaking. At some sites, users have historically traveled onto the gravel bar to reach the water’s

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    20

    edge to launch and retrieve rafts, boats, and kayaks. In general, there is a greater proportion of

    travel below the high-water line out onto a given gravel bar on the Lower Middle Fork than there

    is on the North Fork.

    Wild and Scenic River Developed Sites

    Border, Ford, Polebridge, Big Creek, Great Northern, and Glacier Rim are the six developed

    river access sites on the North Fork of the Flathead River. Big Creek Campground is the only

    developed campground on the North Fork and Ford; Schnaus, and Rover Cabins are three rental

    sites along the river.

    Bear Creek, Paola, Cascadilla, Moccasin, and West Glacier are the five developed river access

    sites on the Lower Middle Fork. Flathead County manages a sixth site at Blankenship Bridge.

    These developed sites provide river corridor users developed parking, toilets, and in some cases

    hardened launch ramps.

    River users often drive motorized vehicles below the high-water line onto hardened gravel bars

    at these river access sites to launch/retrieve watercraft, reach dispersed camping sites, fish, and

    other general recreation activities. This type of use occurs at Border, Polebridge, Glacier Rim,

    Big Creek Campground, Paola, and West Glacier river access sites.

    Wild and Scenic River Dispersed Camping

    The North Fork area is a wide river valley which has opportunities for dispersed recreation such

    as camping, floating, angling, picnicking, hiking, or enjoying the scenery. The North Fork’s

    dispersed areas are mainly used by vehicle-supported recreationists for day and overnight trips

    alike. Wurtz, Kintla, Sondreson, Ford, and Coal Creek are some of the main dispersed areas

    where users choose to recreate.

    Roads throughout the North and Middle Fork Flathead River Corridor are used to access many

    areas utilized for motorized use. Wurtz, Ford, Sondreson, Coal Creek, Road #10923, Camas,

    Huckleberry, Blankenship, and Essex are hardened dispersed sites accessed by motorized

    vehicles and used for camping, angling, and other day use activities. Motorized users travel

    below the high water line of the river at Wurtz, Huckleberry and Blankenship at these dispersed

    locations.

    The general characteristics of the Lower Middle Fork include deep plunge pools, rock walls, and

    steep banks. Nyack Flats with its braided channels is an exception. In general, dispersed

    recreation on the Lower Middle Fork is characterized by day use activities originating from

    developed river access sites.

    There are ten known dispersed camping areas that are accessed by motorized vehicles in the

    North Fork River corridor and four on the Lower Middle Fork River corridor. Based on the

    direction provided in the 2001 OHV ROD and the current Forest-wide order (#F10-024-L-01)

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    21

    mentioned on page 2, there is a potential for additional two-tracks to be created that lead to new

    campsites Within the river corridor.

    Hungry Horse Reservoir Areas

    The reservoir was completed in 1953 and impounds approximately 34 miles of water. The East-

    side Reservoir Road #38 and West-side Reservoir Road #895 surround the reservoir and create a

    popular scenic loop drive. The high-water of the reservoir experiences fluctuations of

    approximately 80 feet each year. This fluctuation creates areas void of vegetation between the

    high-water mark and the actual water level, known as “below high-water line” (BHWL). The

    areas of Devil’s Corkscrew, Logan, Canyon, Riverside, FK&L, Abbot Boat Launch, Flossy, Lost

    Johnny Point Boat Launch, and Lid Creek Campground have historically provided access

    BHWL. The users access the BHWL for numerous recreational purposes including launching

    boats, fishing, or camping. Users travel off the end of the established roads onto the BHWL

    areas. Other portions of the reservoirs’ shoreline are too steep or do not have an open road

    leading to the shoreline.

    FK&L was a log landing used when the area was logged back in the 1960s. Today, it is a

    dispersed area used for camping adjacent to Emery Bay Campground along the east side of

    Hungry Horse Reservoir. Approximately 0.2 miles of undesignated road/trail travel uphill from

    the FK&L dispersed area to a knob overlooking the reservoir.

    Cedar Flats

    The Cedar Flats area is located north of Columbia Falls, south of Cedar Lake, west of the North

    Fork county road, and east of Meadow Lake Resort. The most prominent feature of the area is

    the Bonneville Power Authority powerline that transects the area. The main Cedar Flats Road

    #10815 is bisected with several trails used by OHV to connect to the powerline corridor.

    The primary users of this area are the neighboring residents as well as people living in the greater

    Columbia Falls area. Due to close proximity to Columbia Falls, Cedar Flats receives varied use

    including OHV, stock, hiking, mountain biking, skiing, and other winter recreational use.

    Over the last few years, the Forest Service has mapped routes used by OHV in the Cedar Flats

    area and identified approximately 14 miles of existing routes. There is approximately 3.5 miles

    on Road #10815 and Road #5285 that are open yearlong.

    There are undesirable activities occurring throughout the Cedar Flats area (project file exhibit E-

    13). Dumping of household debris, vandalism of the BPA powerline (shooting out the

    transformers), abandoned fires, and under-aged parties are some of the examples of undesirable

    activities reported from the Cedar Flats area. Recreational shooting or target practicing along the

    powerline and on the trails occurs on a regular basis.

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    Hungry Horse Track

    The Hungry Horse Track is currently available yearlong for motorized vehicles ≤50 inches wide.

    Hungry Horse Track encompasses a total area of approximately 4.5 acres. Over the last few

    years, the Forest Service has mapped approximately 2 miles of routes existing in the area. There

    is an existing forest order restricting the track to vehicles 50 inches or less and the immediate

    surrounding area of the track accessed from Road #11080 is available for day use only with no

    fires or camping allowed. There are approximately 1.5 miles of open road adjacent to Hungry

    Horse Track.

    Pioneer and South Fork River Access

    A dispersed location known as Pioneer is located on the lower portion of the main Flathead

    River. This area includes a Flathead County easement that leads to a parcel of Flathead National

    Forest and access to the river. There is also a dispersed river access site on the Lower South Fork

    below Hungry Horse Dam. These areas provide access for anglers, boaters, and general

    recreationists. There is an existing forest order that prohibits overnight use in both of these

    areas, which in turn prohibits cross-country travel for dispersed camping.

    Environmental Consequences

    Alternative 1 (No-Action Alternative)

    Direct and Indirect Effects

    Wild and Scenic River

    At Border, Polebridge, Big Creek, Glacier Rim, Paola, and West Glacier River Access Sites,

    users would continue to travel below the high-water line onto the gravel bars, to access the river.

    Users would continue to have access to launch and retrieve their boats, as well as other

    recreational activities. At the Border River Access Site, motorized use below the high-water line

    is down a steep river bank to gain access to the gravel bar during low flows. This motorized

    access has caused rutting and erosion down the steep bank. At Big Creek River Access Site, on

    an occasion, users drive out onto the gravel bar towards the outlet of Big Creek which sometimes

    causes congestion and safety issues at this popular site. At Glacier Rim River Access site, users

    park below the boat ramp causing congestion for launching and retrieving boats. Other users

    drive downstream along a sandy shoreline to reach a back eddy. Under the no-action alternative,

    these activities would continue.

    Motorized access to the Middle and North Fork Flathead Rivers has been reduced by previous

    decisions to gate or berm roads or limit access via rocks and fences. Roads leading to the North

    Fork are open both yearlong and seasonally. Both scenic and recreational designations are

  • CHR Project Revised Environmental Assessment

    23

    characterized by motorized access within the corridor. In the no-action alternative, access within

    the Wild and Scenic River Corridor would be managed as it is currently under Special Order

    #F10024L01. This order states that possessing or using motorized vehicles off National Forest

    System Roads when no visible, clearly evident, two track or single track routes are present is

    prohibited. However, motorized wheeled cross-country travel to a campsite within 300 feet of a

    road or trail is legal. The no-action alternative would continue to allow wheeled motorized use

    at the existing areas within the corridor including Wurtz, Ford, Sondreson, Coal Creek, Road

    #10923, Camas, Huckleberry, Essex, and Blankenship. These areas are hardened and used for

    camping, angling, and other recreational activities.

    Currently, motorized users may travel up to 300 feet cross-country from an open existing road or

    trail to access a dispersed campsite within the Wild and Scenic River Corridor. The no-action

    alternative would continue allowing motorized users to travel cross-country up to 300 feet for the

    purposes of dispersed camping.

    The North Fork River Corridor’s topography offers the potential for additional dispersed

    campsites to be created. An undefined number of dispersed sites could be created resulting in an

    increase in the number of vehicle tracks. Many users camp, picnic, or fish in these areas. Fire

    rings and campsites are created and some users have a tendency to leave garbage at these

    dispersed sites. Under Alternative 1, it is reasonable to believe the debris at these sites would

    continue. The Middle Fork’s topography does not lend itself to much motorized access for

    dispersed camping.

    There is interspersed private land throughout the river corridor and some private landowners use

    motorized vehicles on their own land. The private landowners must be aware of the motorized

    travel restrictions on the NFS lands adjacent to their property.

    Alternative 1 should continue to protect the existing natural environment and recreational

    experience. However, there is the potential to diminish the quality of the natural environment

    and the recreation experience of the wild and scenic river corridor if the undesirable activities

    discussed above associated with motorized use expands beyond the current condition.

    Hungry Horse Reservoir Areas

    Under the no-action alternative, motorized use below the high water line locations of Lost

    Johnny Point Boat Launch, Lid Creek Campground, Flossy Bay, Abbot Boat Launch, FK&L,

    Riverside, Canyon, Logan, and Devil’s Corkscrew would continue. The topography or other

    attributes of the remaining shoreline does not lend itself to motorized travel and historically

    motorized use has not occurred. Many users camp, picnic, or fish from these historic access

    areas. Motorized cross-country travel of up to 300 feet from a designated road to reach a

    dispersed campsite would be permitted under Alternative 1. Fire rings and campsites are created

    and some users leave garbage at these dispersed sites. Under this alternative, it is reasonable to

    believe that garbage left at these sites would continue. The ability to manage the variety of

    recreation experiences (dispersed camping, picnicking, fishing, nature watching) in the Hungry

    Horse Reservoir area is affected by the seasonal fluctuations of the reservoir.

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    In the FK&L area, there is a 0.2 mile route to the top of the knob above the reservoir. The route

    barely accommodates full size vehicles but under Alternative 1, the routes would be considered

    open. This loop is used to access dispersed campsites, and some users have a tendency to leave

    garbage at these dispersed sites. Under the no-action alternative, it is reasonable to believe that

    garbage left at these sites would continue.

    Hungry Horse Track

    The track would remain available for vehicles 50 inches and under, including approximately 2

    miles of trail on the track and several open roads adjacent to the track. Currently, there are three

    legal access points to the track area, and all three of these would be maintained under the no-

    action alternative. The existing regulations at the track area are difficult to enforce with the

    multiple access points. These difficulties are expected to continue under the no-action

    alternative.

    Cedar Flats

    Within this area, approximately 14 miles of multiple use routes would continue to be available in

    Alternative 1. Trails would be available for motorized vehicles on the clearly visible tracks, both

    double and single tracks. Several trails are short, lead to private lands, and are dead ends. Those

    trails leading to private lands have the potential for trespass on private property. Additionally, the

    short distance of the trails can lead to crowding and reduce the variety for the user. Due to the

    width of most of the existing tracks, and the requirement that the motorized unit must fit the

    profile of the trail, motorized use would mostly be available to OHV 50 inches and under. The

    trails would continue to be managed for multiple uses (e.g. stock, pedestrian, motor vehicles)

    which puts the responsibility on user groups to respect each other when travelling on a trail.

    These multiple use trails have not posed safety issues between motorized and non-motorized user

    groups. However, the undesirable activities such as shooting, uncontained and poorly located

    campfires, trash dumping, and underage partying that are often associated with full-sized

    motorized vehicles may continue to pose safety issues.

    The utility corridor is maintained under a special use permit to Bonneville Power Administration

    (BPA) for the occupancy and maintenance of the power line. Bonneville Power Administration

    is authorized to drive needed equipment within their permit area including vehicles over 50

    inches, construction equipment etc. Since the width of the BPA access route accommodates full

    size vehicles, this route would continue to be available to highway legal vehicles.

    Several other routes travel through sensitive soils and ephemeral drainages under this alternative.

    Road #5285 and Road #10815 would remain open year round; however, spring break up

    conditions would be assessed and seasonal closures would continue where necessary.

    Traveling cross-country 300 feet from an open road or trail to a dispersed campsite would

    continue under this alternative.

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    Pioneer and South Fork River Access

    Pioneer is located on the main stem of the Flathead River and the access area on the South Fork

    of the Flathead River provides access for anglers, boaters, and general recreationists. There is an

    existing forest order that prohibits overnight use in both of these areas, which in turn prohibits

    cross-country travel for dispersed camping.

    Motorized users at the Pioneer area travel the two-track across the County easement to reach a

    gravel bar, which accesses the main Flathead River. Some motorized use continues past the first

    gravel bar down a hardened side channel, which leads to a large wetland area. There has been

    motorized use into this wetland area; law enforcement responds to these complaints and issues

    notices of violation when appropriate.

    Alternative 2 (Proposed Action)

    Direct and Indirect Effects

    Wild and Scenic River (developed and dispersed sites)

    In Polebridge, Paola, and West Glacier River Access Sites, users would be authorized to take

    motorized vehicles below the high-water line onto the gravel bars to launch/retrieve boats as well

    as other recreational activities. These areas would be designated as cross-country areas and

    displayed on the MVUM. However, motorized access below the high-water line onto the gravel

    or sand bars at the Border, Big Creek, and Glacier Rim river access sites would be prohibited.

    This motorized restriction at the Border River Access would result in floaters having to launch

    their watercraft into the side channel (if the flow accommodates), walking the craft down the side

    channel or carrying it out onto the gravel bar to reach the main channel. Restricting motorized

    access below the high water line at Big Creek except to launch and retrieve a boat is not expected

    to change existing use since the topography does not generally lend itself to motorized access.

    As for Glacier Rim, prohibiting motorized access downstream below the launch ramp onto the

    sand bar would result in users parking in the designated parking area and carrying their supplies

    for the day to the river. This would displace some users who have been used to driving

    downstream on the sand bar. They may choose to use another site, which allows motorized

    access below the high-water line. This would reduce congestion on the launch ramp, reduce

    damage to riparian vegetation and allow shore parties to have more options along the sand bar.

    In Alternative 2, motorized access within the Wild and Scenic River Corridor would be allowed

    within the designated cross-country areas of Wurtz, Ford, Sondreson, Coal Creek, Road #10923,

    Camas, Huckleberry, Essex and Blankenship as well as on the existing designated system roads .

    The cross-country areas are already hardened and the traditional uses (camping, angling, etc)

    would continue. These areas would be shown as cross-country travel areas on a MVUM. No

    other wheeled motorized travel would be authorized within the river corridor.

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    This alternative would prohibit the 300 feet motorized access to a dispersed campsite for

    motorized cross-country travel within the Wild and Scenic