Bitterroot Travel Plan Litigation Decision

Post date: Jul 2, 2018 7:20:17 PM



Contact: Paul Turcke 208-331-1800

DATE: July 2, 2018

MISSOULA, MT – The United States District Court for the District of Montana ruled late last week that the Bitterroot National Forest Travel Plan violated the law, and must be reconsidered by the Forest. The ruling, signed by Chief Judge Dana L. Christensen, found that restrictions on mountain biking in Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) were arbitrary and capricious because the Forest Service closed these Areas to biking without providing for sufficient public comment. Other aspects of the Travel Plan were upheld against the Plaintiffs’ challenges, including restrictions in Recommended Wilderness Area and on motorized use by snowmobiles and ATVs.

The Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are a collection of backcountry recreation groups, including the Bitterroot Ridge Runners Snowmobile Club, Ravalli County Off-Road User Association, Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists, Montana Trail Vehicle Riders Association, Montana Snowmobile Association, Citizens for Balanced Use, Backcountry Sled Patriots. They are represented by lead counsel Paul Turcke from Boise, Idaho, and local counsel Rob Bell from Missoula.

“We are disappointed that the Court did not set aside the Bitterroot Travel Plan in its entirety, because it is a Plan that further restricts public access in a Forest that is already heavily restricted,” said Dan Thompson of the Ridge Runners. “The trails in the Blue Joint and Sapphire WSAs do provide an epic backcountry experience that all riders and hikers have enjoyed largely in solitude for decades,” added Dr. Lance Pysher with the Backcountry Cyclists. “We will be closely monitoring the reaction of the Forest Service and evaluating all of our options moving forward,” Thompson concluded.

The Court’s Order declares that the improper bicycle restrictions are invalid and that the rules previously in force will take effect while the Forest Service reconsiders how to address biking in the WSAs.