Mountain High 

On May 5, the Bush administration lifted a five-year-old rule banning road building, logging and development on the 60 million acres of national forest land that remained undeveloped yet unprotected. The so-called “roadless rule” was based on comments from an unprecedented 2.8 million Americans who supported the plan, and the White House’s new management strategy will allow state governors to decide how and/or when these pristine areas will be altered.

As the agency charged with managing these lands, the Forest Service is required to solicit, record and use your opinions to guide their hand, though the bureaucracy, paperwork and lengthy processes sometimes discourage participation.

So in order to empower citizen input on how these (and other) public lands should be managed, a consortium of conservation groups are hosting a one-day workshop called “The Western Montana Forest Workshop: Local Issues, Local People” on May 14 at the Missoula Children’s Theater.

The workshop will focus on Missoula’s impressive history of activism, ways to efficiently and effectively comment on agency plans, and how to affect change through petitioning, forming new groups or offering tours. Pre-registration is encouraged (and the first 30 to sign up can waive the $15.00 fee) so R.S.V.P. to the Sierra Club at 549-1142 or ariss@wildrockies.org.

The Montana Wilderness Association is hosting its 43rd annual Wilderness Walks, a series of events it calls “one of the most enduring and popular outdoor education programs in the country.” The Wilderness Walk guidebooks feature 192 walks throughout Montana, from family strolls to multi-day hikes. The walks run all summer long, but they fill up fast, so sign up early and score your free guidebook by calling 443-7350 ext. 107, or just log on to www.wildmontana.org.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is seeking comment on how to deal with non-point source pollution in Lolo Creek and the Bitterroot River by looking at the streams’ total maximum daily load—stuff like runoff caused by logging, agriculture or artificially green trophy-home yards. The Lolo Watershed Group is hosting a public forum on why this daily load business is important and how it affects everything from development to trout to drinking water. The Plum Creek Timber Company will be on hand to provide their perspective, so head to the Lolo Community Center at 7 p.m. on May 18 for this free presentation. To learn more, call John Zelazny at 544-7430.

Whitewater party planner Seth Warren is hosting another “Best of the West,” a May 13–15 kayaking extravaganza on the Alberton Gorge. While water levels might make this a less-spectator friendly event than in years past by pushing it deeper into the Gorge—contestants will likely compete on “Fang” instead of the roadside “Triple Bridges”—it’s worth knowing that Kayak Magazine called this event “One of the most innovative kayak competitions in the world.” Head to the Canoe Rack from 6 to 10 p.m. on May 13 for mandatory pre-registration (and pre-party) or log on to www.kayakfreeride.com for more info.

Teenagers looking to get into whitewater kayaking can do it in a safe, supportive environment by joining the Zoo Town Surfers, a weekly “coached and supervised paddling session” from May 17 to August 18. There are classes for all abilities and the group has additional trips planned from Jackson Hole to the Northwest Territories in search of excellent whitewater. Led by local boating experts Scott Doherty and Jason Shreder, transportation is included, gear can be rented, and the courses run from $150 to $350. Call 546-0370 to get in the game.

Warm temps mean cocoons are popping, and Five Valleys Audubon is hosting a two-part Butterfly Workshop and Field Trip with Will Kerling May 12 and 14. For $10 you’ll get the lowdown via slideshow at FWP headquarters before heading out, so call Elizabeth Johnston at 327-1525 for the scoop.

The Montana Audubon Society is teaming up with the Bitterroot NF and the Rocky Mountaineers for a May 14 field trip to scope birds in burned areas. This all-day jaunt for novice and expert birders alike will head to prime cavity nester habitat created by the impressive fires of 2000, so be prepared with food, water and soot-ready clothing. Count on a pre-sunrise start as you head out for a firsthand education on the symbiotic relationship of fires, trees and birds. Call 549-1142 to get in the carpool.

Or join Rocky Mountaineer Steve Niday May 14 for a most spectacular traverse in the Bitterroots—he’s heading up Big Creek, over the Heavenly Twins and out Kootenai Creek. You must be strong and well-equipped for this one, as you’ll cover 5,400 vertical feet over 19 miles of (sometimes) icy fourth-class terrain—assuming, that is, you stay on “route.” Ice axes and self-reliance are mandatory and crampons will likely be helpful, so call trip miester Niday at 721-3790 and bag your rare, from-the-West view of St. Mary’s Peak.

REI is hosting a free bike-maintenance clinic May 19 at 7 p.m., focused on “keeping your 2-wheeled friend running smoothly and efficiently!” Geared toward beginner and intermediate bike mechanics, attendees will also get a free water bottle, so call Bret Pence at 829-0432 for more info.

By offering $20 (or cheaper!) tickets to skiers during its early and late seasons, Big Mountain has in years past been a bastion of Montana-budget schussers during the shoulder seasons. With the variable snow conditions and low out-of-state turnout inherent to skiing in November and April, the cheap tickets have helped get more folks on the hill during times of low skier volume.

Tragically, those days have gone the way of Glacial Lake Missoula, as The Big will be boosting shoulder-season ticket prices to a most uninviting $39, just a ten-spot off their (unchanged) regular season fare of $49.

By default this makes their $429 season pass look like a sweet deal, so note that you’ve only got until May 15 to purchase at that price before it goes up—way up. They’ve got many other deals too, so look into your options before logging on to bigmt.com or calling 862-2900.

Send your outdoor recreation plans to: photo@missoulanews.com.

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