Mountain High 

Let’s start off this week with everybody’s favorite thing about the outdoors: forest management policy.

This week there was a major administrative ruling from the executive branch on off-road vehicle (ORV) use in national forests, and the reception hasn’t been warm in conservation circles. For instance, Missoula resident Jason Keily, who also happens to be director of the Natural Trails and Water Coalition, said in an interview that the ruling avoided addressing the basic problem that prompted the need for rule-making in the first place. That problem is widespread cross-country travel in ORVs that the ruling failed to address by not instructing forests to designate specific areas—small and concentrated enough to make supervision feasible—to which ORV traffic should be limited. Instead, said Keily, forest managers will be tempted to simply validate existing “renegade routes,” even if they negatively impact wildlife, water quality and hiking trails.

Specific trails have not been validated or closed yet, though; individual forests will be making designations in the near future, and the rule directs them to solicit public comment, so if you’re interested in preserving sections of the forest for non-motorized use, get or stay involved with this issue.

Keily says the Lolo National Forest got ORVs under control 20 years ago, but that the Bitterroot National Forest is the place to watch as it considers how to comply with the new rule—specifically whether to adopt a comprehensive travel plan that would designate hiking, biking and horse trails simultaneously with areas for motorized vehicles, to ensure that all uses get a fair shake. Keep watching here, and I’ll keep you up on the public process.

How about some pedal-power trail use to transition out of wonkville? At 6 PM on Thursday, Nov. 10, and the following three Thursdays, Missoula mountain-biking enthusiasts are planning Starry Night Rides in the hills around town. Meet up with them at the Lincoln Hills Parking area Nov. 10 or catch up with them at Blue Mountain on the 17th. Bring some gloves and ear warmers, maybe a light, too. Check out for more info.

For hiking instead of biking, join the Rocky Mountaineers as they head up the trail on the south side of Mount Sentinel and into Pattee Canyon during this month’s kids’ hike on Saturday, Nov. 12. Call 543-6508 to find out the details.

One of the reasons for the limited ambition of the Rocky Mountaineers kids’ hike this month is that it’s hunting season. If you’re planning to hunt with guns, you should be aware that the Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation has restricted firearm discharge on two parcels of school trust lands within the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area. If you’re planning to hunt in that area—not likely, since the adjacent Forest Service land is also a no-gun zone, but still possible—be sure to check with the DNRC to be sure you’re within the bounds. Call 542-4200 to get more info.

You might have noticed some snow lately. With snow comes snow slides. Learn about those from Minot Maser, local representative for Backcountry Access and a multiply-certified ski guide, when he leads a free Avalanche Awareness and Transceiver Education Workshop on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 7 PM at Pipestone Mountaineering, 129 W. Front St. The session will cover the basics of snow stability, help participants identify safe routes, and cover transceiver use in case something does go wrong.

If your Wednesday is already booked, UM’s Outdoor Program has an avalanche lecture planned for 7 PM in the North Urey Lecture Hall on the UM campus; they’re also putting on a transceiver clinic on the 19th from 9 AM to 2 PM. Call 243-5172 to get details for either one.

What should you do with your new backcountry skills? If you’re a UM student, you could pop that question to the UM Peak, Pack & Paddle when they meet at 4 PM on Thursdays, except Thanksgiving, in room 224 of the University Center on the UM campus.

If the widespread white is not encouragement enough, The Banff Mountain Film Festival, a wandering thrill-film festival, should kick-start your outdoor ambition when it sets up a show in the University Theater on the UM campus at 6 PM on Saturday, Nov. 12. Tickets cost $13, $11 in advance, and allow you to view more than a few films of interest to outdoor-loving adrenaline junkies. Call 243-5172.

Speaking of thrill films, Warren Miller’s latest movie, Higher Ground, is showing at 7 and 9:15 PM at the Wilma Theatre on Friday, Nov. 11. There will be many prizes raffled off at intermission and the proceeds from the event benefit the Montana Ski Education Foundation, so fork over the $7 entry fee ($5 in advance) and walk away with many times that in lift tickets and ski shwag.

Finally, if you like to slap the shuttlecock, be sure to sign up by 7 PM on Tuesday, Nov. 15, for the badminton tournament put on by the UM Fitness and Rec Center (FRC) beginning at 5 PM on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Entry is free for FRC members and $6 for others. Call 243-2804.

Ski season is imminent. None of the commercial mountains are open yet, but I’m watching closely. And I’ll keep you informed. Do the same for me.

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