In 2008, the Forest Service permitted a 30-person, 34-mile Swan Crest Run without the prior benefit of public comment or an Environmental Assessment (see "etc.," June 3, 2010). The Forest Service is now considering an application for a two-day, 50-person, 100-Mile Run. Runs elsewhere have grown to over 1,000.
Parts of Jewel Basin indeed already receive "20 or greater parties per week" levels the Flathead Forest Plan says compromises the ability of bears to utilize their limited habitat. Hiking clubs and other groups can minimize their impact by traveling together as a single party.
An organized run of 50 people spread out over 36 hours and 100 miles adds a lot of cumulative impact to the Swan Crest, in addition to already existing uses. If approved, a commercial permit will also set a precedent for others wanting permits for bigger runs, mountain bike rides, motorcycle rides and heli-skiing. The Swan Crest need not become one more mountain range overrun with people and extreme sports.
Commercializing the Swan Crest will kill the goose that laid the golden egg. The reasons the Swan Crest attracts people are the very same reasons the Forest Service should prepare an Environmental Assessment before deciding whether to allow commercial uses there.
Swan View Coalition spent years securing a volunteer agreement to establish a quarter-mile nature trail on the Flathead National Forest. The public comment process helped us move the trail to a less pristine area with lower environmental impacts.
A sincere public involvement process by the Forest Service could bring about a similar relocation of group runs to less sensitive areas; ones that could use the publicity and trail restoration work.
Keith J. Hammer
Swan View Coalition