Rex Palmer – 2004-04-30 12:06:19
Time is short. The period for public comments on the development described here extends only through April 30th. The fact that “only” 16 acres are involved is deceptive. The consequences for wildlife, including lynx, could be serious.
The Montana Army National Guard has requested that the Helena National Forest permit a biathlon course at Macdonald Pass, next to the Continental Divide, 12 miles west of Helena. The development would include several buildings, several kilometers of trails, a road, a parking lot, and a rifle range. Approximately 16 acres would be cleared. The two points below suggest that anyone who cares about biodiversity in the Rocky Mountain region might take an interest in the environmental consequences of this project.
At this web site– http://www.rexpalmer.net/FSL/FSL.htm —
please find a letter from HNF District Ranger Duane Harp describing the proposal. As the letter indicates, the potential threat to lynx habitat is already acknowledged. What is not acknowledged is the fact that the proposed site is a critical bottleneck in a wildlife migration corridor — one that would be affected not only by the development itself, but also by the noise of a rifle range. Please see the following web site for maps and a photographs of the area:
The proposal would infringe on the wild corridor that runs from Glacier Park to the Bob Marshall Wilderness to Yellowstone Park. Wildlife biologists are trying to maintain a migration path for animals.
The course is sited at a narrow portion of this corridor, which makes for significant impact. The narrow strip of public land that lays across McDonald Pass is less than two miles wide, with the existing microwave towers, campgrounds, and ski trails already providing some impediment to migration for shy species.
The proposed facility will occupy a currently un-developed hillside that provides some of the most secure habitat in the area.
2) Lynx Habitat
Lynx are a threatened species. The ecosystem up at the proposed course site is classic lynx habitat, with a mix of Engleman spruce, sub-alpine fir,and snowshoe hares.
No lynx have been spotted (they are famously elusive), but the habitat is so prime that biologists have been searching the area. Given the corridor, maybe they could move in. This is not good habitat to reduce.
As the letter and web site referenced above indicate, the proposed biathlon development might also adversely affect nearby residences and existing, low-impact recreational activities. (Throughout my life, I and my family have spent time nearby.) And there is a concern over lead pollution that could be caused by bullet slugs.
I hope that the concerned citizens will lend their voices to the gathering effort to prevent destruction of this valuable natural area.
Again, the period for public comment closes on April 30th. Comments should be directed to:
Larry Cole, Helena Ranger District, 2001 Poplar, Helena, MT 59601,
(406) 449-5490, firstname.lastname@example.org .
Rex Palmer, 35 Old Angell Rd., Cumberland, RI 02864, (401) 334-4875