Friday, April 23, 2021

Blankenship should be addressed

| March 17, 2021 6:50 AM

I was surprised the U. S. Forest Service for a second year is willing to continue to allow unlimited and uncontrolled camping along the Flathead River in the Blankenship area. The last issue of the Hungry Horse News quoted District Ranger Davies as acknowledging that there were problems last year with dispersed campsites on the North Fork that are free of charge. Davies stated “The worst one was at Blankenship where people camped in droves; sometimes there were 35-40 campers at a time. The Forest Service ended up putting portable toilets at the site.” Ranger Davies further added “While human waste is definitely a concern, tests of the North Fork for E. coli bacteria were very low.”

I believe that unmanaged camping in this area fails to address a number of additional issues that were never openly addressed last summer and need to be resolved before the practice is allowed to continue this season. Such issues include:

Are all Flathead County Health Department regulations being complied with? Lacking any designated roads should open driving even be allowed? Why is the USFS offering free camping in competition with private campgrounds? Who is responsible for adequate placement, care and maintenance of portable toilet facilities, trash removal and area cleanup? Who pays for the additional cost of these free campgrounds?

While the Comprehensive River plan is apparently still years from completion, the USFS has the responsibility to manage its land in this area. Closing the area to camping would the best response until an acceptable and sustainable plan can be developed by all involved parties, including the public.

Dan O’Brien

Blankenship area resident