Thursday, April 18, 2024

Letters to the editor May 3

| May 3, 2020 1:00 AM

This notice from the Forest Service was recently issued regarding applications for commercial recreational use of protected areas, with sensitive environmental status, and endangered wildlife species:

“Based on resource information to date, I believe these projects fall within the Forest Service category of actions under 36 CFR 220.8 that may be excluded in either an environmental assessment (EA) or an environmental impact statement (EIS) and that no extraordinary circumstances exist which would preclude use of this category.”

This is both the introduction and the conclusion that accompanies the first whispered shout-out to the citizens of Northwest Montana who live in or near Whitefish and Polebridge, and all along the North Fork of the Flathead Scenic River. It states with quiet certainty that nothing that anyone living in those areas may think about the commercial guided bicycle, ATV, and hiking tours, also a mass marathon through the protected forest areas where these events are scheduled merit discussion.

Apparently, it seems that it never occurred to the permitting agencies that packs of marathon racers, mountain bikes, roaring ATVs or large hiking and camping groups might not be ideal in such places. Well, I beg to differ. I am a resident of Polebridge and I have been party to the many of the long and complicated conversations between the various entities who in one way or another, create the rules that govern such places and those who live there.

The scores of people living in these areas have been given what I call “short shrift,” and silenced before they ever got a chance to speak on the issues. It is absolutely clear for a great many of us that these events would adversely affect the environment and the wildlife living here, not to mention the irresponsible danger posed both to wildlife and to human life by reckless bikers and ATV enthusiasts. (Did anyone read where a mountain biking ranger drove around a corner at high speed and collided with a grizzly, which promptly dispatched him?)

Some Montanans can be heard protesting “frivolous lawsuits” brought by radical environmental groups against governmental proposals. This is complete nonsense. The need to initiate a lawsuit is the direct result of governmental agencies making proposals which clearly break the existing laws and regulations pertaining to wildlife, endangered species, environmental protections of water, land or forests.

The sponsors of these applications for commercial recreation events and the agencies passing approval on them, have given the people living in the affected areas almost no notice or opportunity to comment on these applications, they have been presented with a foregone conclusion denying their citizens right to participate in decisions of this type. This is exactly the type of high-handed, money-driven trampling of public interest that invites a lawsuit, and I’m sure one will be filed in the immediate future unless the citizens and relevant, knowledgeable organizations are given the opportunity for comments and careful consideration.

—Carol Edwards, Polebridge

I urge the Forest Service to not approve the Foys to Blacktail Marathon. I did the leg work and steered the Lakeside to Blacktail Trail though the Forest Service process. I also donated the majority of the funds for building that trail and a like amount to the Foys to Blacktail project.

What I envisioned was an opportunity for local people to enjoy the natural environment away from the hustle bustle of everyday life. I certainly did not envision the trails being used for hundreds of runners racing through the forest checking their split times and observing nothing else. This type of activity stresses the natural environment, frightening wildlife and undoubtedly causing other collateral damage.

I am not a bear expert or an environmental activist. I have been a long-distance runner all my life and support the activity. Trails in the national forest are just not the right venue.

—Robert Hermes, Lakeside

It’s been brought to my attention that Schellinger Construction and Bruce Tutvedt are trying to get permits to add asphalt and concrete plants to their gravel pit on the corner of Farm to Market and Church drive in Kalispell. The permit request was buried in a legal announcement for the flathead county planning board meeting on May 5.

There has been no notification or info of permits brought to the attention of the residents of West Valley. It is saying we can attend the meetings but with the current quarantine, meetings can only be attended by social media and there has not been any links posted, so we can comment on the permits except via mail or phone. We have not been able to find out anything about exactly what they are wanting to put in the pit except a concrete and asphalt plant.

Many West Valley residents feel this meeting might be illegal and being backdoored, so we don’t know anything about it, so these permits will go through with no problems. These permits were already denied when the gravel pit was first opened and are now being requested again.

The residents are concerned about the shallow water aquifer that is in the area of the current gravel pit. These plants could ruin the water supply for many homes and farms that rely on this water aquifer.

There is also concern about the amount of traffic that will increase on the already narrow and busy roads in the West Valley area. West Valley School, just to the south of the pit, is already severely congested in the mornings and afternoons with traffic and now there would be all these additional trucks that will be fully loaded amongst the traffic dropping off and picking up their kids.

Let’s not forget about the amount of noise these plants and trucks will add to these neighborhoods. Trucks were told to stay away from the school when the pit was first opened but they still came down by the school, downshifting and braking as they came into the school zone disrupting classes that are the closest to the road. There is also the amount of dust and smoke and smell that will be added to the surrounding area especially to that new property that was just sold by the Tutveidts to make a subdivision.

As West Valley residents, we need to stand together and contact the Flathead county planning board and say these permits will have an adverse impact to immediate and surrounding neighborhoods. West Valley is zoned AG for a reason and these permits will go against the West Valley neighborhood plan that has been in effect for a number of years.

—Cory Hill is a West Valley School Board trustee