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WildEarth Guardians Encourage Wildlife be Prioritized over Motorized Vehicles in Proposed National Forest Plan
Kalispell, MT – Conservationists are calling on the Flathead National Forest to ensure stronger wildlife protections as it charts a course for the future. WildEarth Guardians is demanding the forest protect grizzly bears and other native but besieged wildlife. Alleging that roads and motor vehicles are the greatest threat to sensitive, reclusive mammals, the groups want the forest to emphasize wildlife habitat over motorized uses.
“The Flathead is such an important place for native fish and wildlife. Yet the forest appears to be on course to hand over significant portions of its habitat to motor vehicles,” said Greg Dyson, Public Lands Director for WildEarth Guardians. “The Flathead is fortunate so many people care about giving native fish and wildlife a refuge. We must keep it that way.”
The Flathead National Forest in far northern Montana is charting its course for the next 15 years. The forest is one of the largest wild places left in the lower 48. Bordering Glacier National Park and the British Columbian international boundary, the Flathead is the heart of the “Crown of the Continent.” It is home to some of the nation’s most iconic wildlife: grizzly bear, lynx, wolverine, and native bull trout. All of these animals are extremely sensitive to roads and motorized vehicles, including snowmobiles.
“The Flathead is attempting to weaken grizzly protections, and they can't do that,” said Bryan Bird. “Grizzlies need protection from roads and motorized snow vehicles. This national forest seems to think it can make the rules up as they go, but they can't. We intend to take a strong stand for grizzly.”
The groups submitted a 100-page plus letter putting the forest on notice that it needs to put the safety of wildlife first. They argue the agency must use the best available science and abide by its own direction to minimize conflicts between motorized uses and water quality, wildlife habitat and quiet users.
“The Flathead seems intent on giving the public forest over to a relatively small group of self-interested, motorized recreationists,” said Bird. “while ignoring the needs of fish, wildlife and quiet users.”
The Forest encompasses 1.8 million acres of lynx habitat and one of the largest populations of wolverines in the lower 48 states. Bull trout and west slope cutthroat trout migrate as adults from Flathead Lake to their birth streams on the forest to spawn.