The Bitterroot National Forest’s first, newly updated travel plan in 40 years is facing its first legal challenge.
A coalition of seven multiple-use recreation groups describes their lawsuit as a, "last resort to stop the federal overreach of agencies running roughshod over public lands."
Stan Spencer is founder of the Missoula-based coalition-member Backcountry Sled Patriots:
"These areas are being closed based on Forest Service ideology and political pressure. But there are no valid science, no valid facts being proffered or put forward as a reason that motorized access in these areas should be disallowed," Spencer says.
The Bitterroot Travel Plan, which was finalized in May, outlines seasonal motorized use on the over 1.5 million-acre national forest.
Forest officials say it uses the best available science to protect wildlife, water and soil resources.
Bitterroot National Forest Spokesman Tod McKay says it strikes a fair balance between the needs of motorized and non-motorized users alike:
"We’ve got a lot more people using the forest today, and the types of uses have changed dramatically. Finally, there are 2,246 miles of forest roads and trails open to motorized use under the plan. That's equivalent to the driving distance between Hamilton and New York City."
The lawsuit challenging the Bitterroot National Forest Travel plan was filed Wednesday in Missoula District Court.
Find more Bitterroot National Forest travel planning documents here.