Most areas suitable for backcountry touring in Montana are on publicly-owned National Forests. These forests are managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Each forest is required to have a management plan and those plans must be updated every 10 or 20 years. Forests are also required to have travel management plans dictating where vehicles (including off-road-vehicles) are allowed to go on the forest. As of 2014, forests that have snowmobile use must also include snowmobiles in their travel plans. This process is moving slowly and largely starting in California.
Additionally, forests have to analyze and solicit public comment for decisions that will have a significant impact on the forest. Relevant to backcountry skiing, these decisions are typically ski resort expansions or access issues.
The most important things to know about forest policy is that there are several opportunities for public comment in each process. It’s critical that managers hear from backcountry skiers and riders when making their decisions. Please consider submitting comments and attending public meetings when appropriate.
Below is a list of where our local forests are in the planning, travel planning and other policy processes. We’re doing our best to keep this list updated. Follow us on Facebook for more regular updates and opportunities to engage.
The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest is currently in the process of revising their travel plan and have released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The DEIS can be found here and maps of the different alternatives can be viewed here. For general information on the process and it’s current status click here.
The Custer Gallatin Forest Plan Revision is getting close to a decision and recently held a public meeting addressing the objections obtained from the public comment period. A decision is currently set for early 2021. Specifics on the revision can be found here.
The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest has drafted their forest plan, accepted public comment and held a public meeting addressing the objections. For more information click here.
The final decision for Lookout Pass ski area expansion can be viewed here.
The Flathead National Forest signed a final record of decision for their land management plan. For more information, click here.
The Snowbowl ski area expansion decision has been approved and can be viewed here.