Over the past years, Friends of Lolo Peak and others have strongly urged the U. S. Forest Service to protect the integrity of the Research Natural Area (RNA) on Carlton Ridge.  We have been successful at that – so far! The Forest Service decreed several years ago that the RNA must not be impacted by any development. 

In the process of developing new Forest Plans for both the Bitterroot and the Lolo National Forest in 2005, we were clearly with the majority of our fellow western Montanans.  Of all the comments received by the Forest Service, more than 85% supported more protection for the Lolo Peak area.  We will carry that strong public sentiment as we encourage the Forest Service to abide by the existing Forest Plan – which calls for limiting the upper reaches of the Lolo Peak area to low-impact, backcountry non-motorized uses. 

Leaving these public lands just the way they are is good for the economy and does not cause irreparable damage to the ecological integrity of the landscape.  The entirety of Carlton Ridge needs to be maintained in a wild condition, not just the RNA which is mostly on the east end of the Ridge. You can be sure that we are working to keep these wonderful spaces wild. We are, of course, monitoring the progress of the latest submission of plans to develop the area and will keep you updated if your voice needs to be heard. The Special Use Permitting process is a long one and public comment is not requested until the environmental impact analysis; last time the Lolo National Forest denied the ski resort at Level One, during the Level Two analysis the Bitterroot National Forest did not get a response to their request for financial information so the process died.

On behalf of the thousands of residents who care about the Lolo Peak area, we continue to stay in touch with the Forest Service, from district rangers to the regional forester, letting them know how wide and deep the community support is for protecting these lands.

Recently, Friends of Lolo Peak successfully advocated for installation of a gate on FS Road #1311 on Forest Service land.   Then, we monitored the gate to make sure that it is not being damaged or that motorized users aren’t finding a way around it. We have already reported an incident of unauthorized usage to the Forest Service.

Development of public lands around Lolo Peak poses these risks:

  • Disturbing and potentially destroying both winter AND summer habitat for wildlife, especially for those creatures which are more sensitive to intrusion such as the lynx.
  • Disrupting wildlife migration through the Mission Mountain Wilderness into the Great Burn/Lolo Pass areas and on to the Salmon-Selway wilderness and the Montana-Idaho crest that eventually converges on the Yellowstone Ecosystem. 
  • Interfering with migration patterns of wildlife which are attracted to the habitat of the Lolo Peak and Carlton Ridge landscape from across the northern end of the Bitterroot valley.
  • Impacts to water in Carlton, McClain, Mormon and Lolo Creeks and the Bitterroot River. 
  • Road-related landslides, already well known in the area.
  • Loss of traditional access to quiet, personal recreation and solitude.

We would love to hear your concerns and your ideas for protecting these public lands.  Share this message, and help us continue building community support to keep the Lolo Peak public lands public!

Friends of Lolo Peak, P.O. Box 4122, Missoula, MT 59806
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