Past Action Alerts.

Past Action Alerts.

Help the Flathead National Forest decide whether to issue temporary special use permits

Comments due April 10th.

The Flathead National Forest is considering whether to issue 23 temporary special use permits for guided recreational activities or special events this summer. Potentially permitted activities include ATV/UTV rides, backpacking trips, trail runs, watercraft delivery services, shuttle services, mountain bike rides, dirt bike rides, a bow hunting education camp, and several races. The Forest Service is accepting public comment on the proposed permits through April 10th.

If you have information about potential benefits, impacts to resources or other users, or other specific concerns the Forest Service should consider when deciding whether to issue a permit, they need to hear from you! More information about the permits and suggested talking points are below.


How to Access Information about the Permits:

You can access the Forest Service Scoping Letter and Permit Summary as well as maps of permitted activities on the Forest Service website.

How to Submit Comments:

Please submit comments by April 10th, 2024.

Submit comments electronically via email:

Mail or hand deliver comments to:

Julie Gerrior
Supervisor’s Office
Flathead National Forest
650 Wolfpack Way
Kalispell, MT 59901

Suggested talking points are below.

Why This Matters

In recent years, the Flathead National Forest has seen a dramatic increase in the request for temporary special use permits for outfitted or guided recreational activities or large events. While outfitter and guide service or special events can facilitate access, or provide quality recreational experiences, they also harm fish and wildlife, degrade water quality, damage other forest resources, or conflict with the general public’s use and enjoyment of the forest. The growth in permits, coupled with the explosion of non-permitted recreational use on the Forest in recent years, has generated widespread concern about how to find greater harmony between public use and resource protection. Your comments on these permits can help the Forest Service strike that balance.

Suggested Talking Points

In addition to any information you may have about specific requested permits, we encourage you to include the following in your comments.

  1. Acknowledge improved public comment period

In response to our repeated suggestions, the Forest Service is providing an earlier and longer window for public comment. This is a dramatic improvement over recent years when the Flathead released the permits for public comment right before issuing the permits, minimizing the likelihood these comments would be seriously considered.

  1. Request more information on cumulative use and impacts

Many of the permits request to use similar trails, roads, or areas of the Forest. Please ask the Forest Service to provide better information on cumulative use and impacts, such as a searchable map that displays the location and user days for all existing and requested recreation permits, permitted activities.

  1. Ask the Forest Service why it keeps re-issuing certain permits

Per the Flathead National Forest’s guidelines, temporary special use permits are only supposed to be issued for uses that are “non-recurring” and that are “not intended to build a business.” (Permits for recurring use are issued through a different, more analytically robust process). Yet some of the requested special use permits are re-issued annually, including in some cases to outfitters who are clearly trying to build a business, such as Flathead Outdoors or Glacier Ridge Runners. Please ask the Forest Service to publicly clarify why they keep issuing these permits in violation of their own guidelines.

More Information

A special use permit is required for all commercial activities occurring on national forest lands. Temporary special use permits for outfitting and guiding are issued for a period of time covering no more than 180 days, and allow a maximum of 200 service days. All permitted activities must be compatible with Forest Plan direction for a given area, and comply with all rules and regulations, such as a food storage order or whether a route is open or closed to motorized travel.

Learn more about special use permits on the Flathead National Forest including the Flathead National Forest’s guidelines for issuing special use permits.

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