Forest road openings, and the return of red-baiting 

Good news for you late-season snow-junkies: In a traditional rite of spring, on May 15, the Forest Service will re-open roads that had been closed for the winter.

Numerous roads are closed by the USFS each winter for a variety of reasons, including habitat and road protection. This can bum out hunters looking for quick and easy access to Montana’s shootable, edible and mountable wildlife, but it’s critical for preventing muddy roads from becoming deeply rutted, as well as for providing safe havens and feeding grounds for elk and other critters.

“The dates of restrictions are mostly related to wildlife patterns,” says Bitterroot National Forest Staff Officer for Engineering and Administration Roy Grant. Other reasons for closures are protecting native road surfaces, he adds. “The roads stay closed until they’ve dried out.”

However, as most Montanans are following warmer temperatures toward rivers and snow-free zones, backcountry skiers are champing at the bit, looking for accessible and glorious skiing conditions in Montana’s high country.

Indeed, snow in high alpine regions in western Montana typically holds out long enough for skiers to be simultaneously shussing and sunning well into July, as long as they are willing to trudge up the mountain.

But don’t count on a mass pilgrimage of skiers lugging their boards above the treeline looking for a chance to link a dozen turns, as most people put away their boards when local chairlifts closed last month.

“I think you’re in the minority of who’s watching road closures,” says Grant. “Most of our users are in the fall hunting season.”
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Call me Trotsky, but didn’t red-baiting fall out of vogue with tailfins, bobby socks and whites-only drinking fountains? Lately there seems to be a rash of people with their knickers in a clove hitch ready to rubber-stamp “commie” in bold crimson across the dossiers of anyone who doesn’t swallow their particular take of the status quo.

Two weeks ago, it was a sham newsletter from the so-called Communist Committee for Environmental Preservation, which damned by association the activities of the Montana Human Rights Network, Women’s Voices for the Earth and Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, to name a few. This week, Missoula’s Ward Two Councilmember Jamie Carpenter got in on the act by red-tagging Missoula’s Neighborhood Councils, “which everyone knows is a nice, happy word for ‘New Party Recruitment and Training Ground,’” according to her web site. This after a neighborhood group called Play Fair Missoula asked for a referendum on the new baseball stadium. “They didn’t get their way in the Democratic Process, so they work to wear the public down—force them to take the GOOD Socialist medicine the New Party/Progressive Missoula has for them,” she wrote.

The retro-political scapegoating of Carpenter’s personal web site (linked to the City of Missoula web site) was only reinforced when we talked to her ourselves. “I’m not in any way thinking it’s a big conspiracy,” Carpenter said in a phone interview. “But I think there’s a good number of people in the New Party who definitely have ideas that are not very American.” Hmm.

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