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Off-Roaders Consider Lawsuit Over Forest Travel Plan

The Capital Trail Vehicle Association is considering a lawsuit to block implementation of the Divide Travel Plan.
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The Capital Trail Vehicle Association is considering a lawsuit to block implementation of the Divide Travel Plan.

A group of off-roaders is thinking about suing the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest over a travel plan it finalized this week.

The Divide Travel Plan designates where motorized travel will be allowed on the Helena Ranger District. The plan covers about 155,000 acres and has been years in the making. Forest officials say it offers reasonable, well-distributed motorized access throughout the region, barring inventoried roadless areas.

Doug Abelin doesn’t see it that way.

"We’re going to lose big time on this one.”

Abelin, president of the Capital Trail Vehicle Association says the new plan unnecessarily closes roads and trails to motorized vehicles. As an example, he points to the popular Sweeney Creek area just east of MacDonald Pass.

"It’s just a great place to go and they are totally shutting that down to us. It’s the only close-to-town motorized area left.”

Helena District Ranger Heather DeGeest says Sweeney Creek offers important wildlife habitat. She says keeping it open would have required seasonal closures.

"Once you put the seasonal restrictions on it and you have a fairly small area, it just wasn’t really a good bang for our buck for motorized trails.”

The Capital Trail Vehicle Association is considering a lawsuit to block implementation of the Divide Travel Plan. See the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forests Plan Revision here.

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