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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Montana Campgrounds, Recreation Sites Closed Due To Coronavirus

Big Larch Campground on the Lolo National Forest.
Lolo National Forest

National forests in Montana are shutting down developed recreation sites in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visitors can still recreate on most those federal lands, but should not expect any amenities.

Throw a dart at a map of Montana’s national forests and the story’s pretty much the same; all developed recreational facilities are now closed to the public until further notice. Those closures include all developed campgrounds, day-use sites, lookouts, forest outhouse and toilets. Forest rental cabins are now closed and unavailable for rent. Those who’ve already booked cabins will be notified as soon as possible and will get refunds.

This is just the latest development surrounding the expanding novel coronavirus pandemic.

Forest Service news releases from various forest headquarters in Montana noted these decisions were not taken lightly, and were made with public health and safety in mind.

The closures will not affect forest trails, trailheads or dispersed camping sites which remain open for now. Individual forests websites will have updated and specific details.

Public health officials are encouraging exercise during these stressful times as long as people practice proper social distancing.

The public is also asked to recreate responsibly.

The Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest, for example, discourages the public from high risk activities such as rock climbing. Forest officials say law enforcement and search and rescue operations may now be limited due to concerns about COVID-19.

Glacier National Park is now closed to all park visitors until further notice.

Closures aren’t limited to Montana’s federal lands. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks this afternoon announced state parks, fishing access sites and wildlife management areas are now only open for day use. Overnight camping is not allowed. Group use sites will be closed, including playgrounds and visitor center closures will be extended through at least April 10. Bathrooms use at many locations will be limited and sites will be regularly patrolled by enforcement staff.

At this time, FWP says the upcoming spring turkey and bear seasons are not canceled, though hunters are directed to practice social distancing.

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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