Kicking the can down the road

| February 19, 2020 11:17 AM

It is hard for me to imagine that we have been holding Interlocal meetings for thirty years. Before the Interlocal there was real animosity between local residents and the government land management agencies – especially the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service. Bones of contention were the Wild and Scenic Rivers, Endangered Species and Glacier’s planning. Feelings were so strong that signs were erected on 4x8-foot sheets of plywood banning government employees from private property except for fighting fire.

All this did was make matters worse and the North Fork Improvement Association voted to make an effort to improve relations. As a result, after a lot of work and many meetings, two organizations were formed. The Land Use Advisory Committee was mainly a landowner agreement with Flathead County to tackle land use planning. That group spent thousands of hours creating and finally the county adopted our current land use plan. The LUAC still exists and advises Flathead County and periodically reviews the zoning regulations.

The Interlocal was more complicated to create. A committee consisting of Mike Connor USFS, John Frederick North Fork Preservation president, Larry Wilson and Lynn Ogle, President and Vice President worked to create a viable discussion group.

For the first two years there was only one meeting. This was held in the summer at Sondreson’s Hall and was for the land use agencies to inform private landowners of their plans and for private citizens to voice their concerns with the agencies. After the second meeting the agencies requested a second winter meeting so they could address their concerns with private landowners. We have held two meetings per year since then, but the purpose has evolved and changed although we still address private citizen concerns.

The Interlocal was designed to discuss concerns and exchange information and for that to be done in an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable.

I admit to being somewhat of a cynic. In my opinion, agencies move way too slow, waste tons of money, and too often do not or cannot carry out their own plans or do what the private groups want.

This year’s winter Interlocal was typical:

The much-touted FIAP grant was intended to fix the North Fork Road from Trail Creek Road to the border, repair the slumps at Wurtz Hill and Harts, and upgrade the road from the mercantile to the Polebridge Ranger Station. New estimates now predict this would cost twice the original estimates so it will be delayed (again).

The Inside Road will not open in 2020 although both ends will allow vehicles to go further than in recent years. Bowman and Kintla Lake access will remain pretty much as they are, but no substantive improvements will be made to infrastructure. Road closures to Kintla and Bowman will remain a nightmare.

The River Plan will be finished in a year, but it will probably not change anything except renew the threat of a permit system, but not yet. No new tourist infrastructure is planned.

Treble hooks will be banned on the North Fork, starting this summer, but bull trout and cutthroat numbers are not expected to change. Catch and release remains in effect – eat more whitefish.

I have not heard a word about water quality monitoring, and Glacier’s air quality monitoring at Polebridge and Camas has yet to be evaluated and released.

In my view, no real change but the can has been kicked down the road (again).

More next week on the Interlocal.

Larry Wilson’s North Fork Views appears regularly in the Hungry Horse News.