On July 2, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana remanded the Travel Plan for the Little Belt, Castle, and North Half Crazy Mountains Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision to the Lewis and Clark National Forest and directed the Forest to reopen certain motorized routes and to restore dispersed camping on over 80,000 acres. Previously, the Court ruled on March 10, that the 2007 Travel Management Plan issued by the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Montana Wilderness Study Act (MWSA). The Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA) and the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) had joined a coalition of recreation groups in filing a lawsuit challenging the Plan.
SVIA and MIC general counsel Paul Vitrano commented, “This is a very positive remedy for ATV and motorcycle riders in Montana as it restores riding opportunities on many of the routes and trails that were closed by the final Travel Plan issued by the Forest. The remedy is also positive as it shows that, when agencies issue decisions through a flawed process, off-highway vehicle enthusiasts and industry can work together to get trails reopened.”
The Lewis and Clark originally developed the plan in an effort to implement the national Travel Management Rule finalized by the U.S. Forest Service in November 2005, which requires each National Forest to undergo processes to designate roads, trails, and areas that are open to motor vehicles.
MIC and SVIA senior vice president for Government Relations, Kathy Van Kleeck said, “We applaud the Court for restoring many of the opportunities that would have been lost, and it is our hope that this positive result encourages OHV enthusiasts across the country to get or stay involved in Travel Management processes on their local Forests.”
Specific trails that have been reopened (with or without date restrictions) are outlined in the order, which can be accessed here. The Summer Travel-Map 5 Record of Decision Little Belt, Castle & North Half Crazy Mountain Ranges mentioned in the order can be accessed here.
Vitrano concluded, “We believe an appropriate remedy was meted out, and stand ready to defend this decision on appeal if necessary. This is a big victory and riders in Montana have even more to celebrate on this Holiday weekend.”
The suit that led to the remedy was filed by the Russell Country Sportsmen, Montana Trail Vehicle Riders Association, Great Falls Trail Bike Riders Association, Great Falls Snowmobile Club, Meagher County Little Belters, Treasure State Alliance, Motorcycle Industry Council, Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, and BlueRibbon Coalition. Representing the plaintiffs are Paul Turcke of Boise, Idaho, Bill Horn of Washington, D.C., and Rob Cameron of Helena, Montana.