Thursday, May 13, 2021

More thoughts on permits

| May 13, 2020 7:38 AM

Having a cluster of special permit requests to the Forest Service certainly created a firestorm of comments from North Fork landowners. Like my neighbors I oppose any more permits for commercial activity on the North Fork.

I appreciate that our state legislator, Debo Powers, arranged a Zoom conference with Rob Davies, Glacier View Ranger, so that residents could voice their concerns and Rob could answer so that everyone could hear.

Big question I had was why the permits were not mentioned at the Interlocal. The answer was easy – they were not submitted until after the Interlocal. The USFS, Rob Davis in particular, made them public in a timely manner and allowed time for public comment.

Requests for special permits do not require public comment periods and we should thank the ranger for providing the comment period and for promising to listen to and consider all comments received – even after May 1.

Unfortunately, commercial activity has already destroyed the North Fork I knew as a boy and it wasn’t due to Forest Service activity.

Biggest commercial activity since World War II has been real estate. Land values at the end of the war were under $10 per acre. Today I am aware of one-acre lots costing up to $60,000. In 1947, the average lot size was just under 160 acres. Today, it is close to 20 acres.

As a result we have many more North Fork landowners, many of whom are here to enjoy the many opportunities for outdoor recreation and since I retired, that includes me.

In 1948 primary activity on U.S. Forest land was logging. Today, logging is minimal, and tourism has become a major activity in Flathead County.’

Public lands have become the focus for tourism and Glacier Park and the Bob Marshall Complex are both fueled by commercial activity.

Today, you seldom meet a logging truck on the North Fork Road, but you are certainly going to meet vehicles towing a rubber boat, not to mention cyclists coming over Trail Creek Road.

Campgrounds at Kintla Lake and Bowman Lake are often filled and then closed, but there are still more people coming every year.

Unfortunately, more people means more demand for access and that means an opportunity for someone to make a buck.

I am afraid we have opened the gates and it may be impossible to close them again.

The last time I visited Yosemite National Park, traffic moved at 10 mph at best and every campground was full.

Will that happen here? I hope not, but I worry about it.

What do you think?

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