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Group rallies against Gallatin off-road proposal (MT)

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 17, 2004 1:44 am    Post subject: Group rallies against Gallatin off-road proposal (MT) Reply with quote

By The Associated Press Tuesday, December 14, 2004

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) -- A group of bikers, snowmobilers and all-terrain vehicle riders is fighting a proposal by the Gallatin National Forest to close significant areas to motor vehicles.

The forest wants to ban snowmobiles from 356,000 of its 1.8 million acres under a revised travel plan due out in January. Motorcycle trails would fall by about 50 percent and ATV trails by 40 percent.

The plan also calls for 34,000 fewer off-trail acres for horseback riders in alpine areas of the Beartooth Plateau, and a drop in off-road access for mountain bikers.

A weekend rally against the proposal by Citizens for Balanced Use, a new group formed by motorized use advocate Kerry White, drew more than 200 people, including several local and county officials.

Many carried signs reading "Don't Lock Us Out," "No More Closure," and "No Compromise. We Want to Keep What We Already Have."

"You've been threatened to be locked out," Bozeman city commissioner Jeff Krauss told the crowd. "I guarantee the city commission does not support anything but full access to the national forest."

Krauss vowed to ask Mayor Andrew Cetraro and fellow commissioner Lee Hietala to write letters calling on the U.S. Forest Service to keep its lands open to motorized users.

White said he formed the group because "there needs to be some balance."

But some environmental groups believe the existing balance already favors motorized users.

Most non-wilderness trails in the Gallatin are open to motorized vehicles, and plenty will stay that way if the travel plan is adopted, said Alex Phillips, an organizer in Bozeman for the Montana Wilderness Association.

Just 4 percent of forest visitors report using motorcycles and ATVs, while less than 10 percent snowmobile, she said.

"You can hear them from miles away," said Phillips, who added that protecting the forest's wildlife and natural resources were also important concerns.

Forest Supervisor Becki Heath was expected to select a final plan sometime next year.
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