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Proposed Bunker Park cabins draw immediate fire

by CHRIS PETERSON
Editor | March 17, 2021 6:55 AM

A proposal to build four cabins at a former campsite just off the Bunker Creek Road near the Bob Marshall Wilderness has immediately drawn criticism from an environmental group.

Bunker Creek Road is a remote road that serves the Bob Marshall Wilderness at Gorge and Bunker Creeks. The area was razed by the Bear Creek Fire in 2015.

The Flathead National Forest last week started the public scoping process to build four rental cabins at what used to be a campground.

Spotted Bear District Ranger Scott Snelson said last week demand for rental cabins is high.

He said after last summer, where people seemed to camp on nearly every wide spot in the road, the expectation is that demand for camping sites will remain high this year and into the future.

He said the idea was to provide rustic cabins “so people don’t have to drag an RV back there.”

He indicated a non-governmental organization has indicated an interest in building the cabins, though he declined to name the organization. He also said if they helped build the cabins, they would not get preferential treatment to use them.

He also noted that what was once a primitive campground at Bunker Park in a glade of trees is now almost devoid of them after the fire.

The proposal drew immediate criticism from the Swan View Coalition on several fronts.

“We object in the strongest of terms to your proposal to build four rental cabins at Bunker Park, immediately outside the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the intervening strip of land that is proposed for Wilderness designation in the Flathead Forest Plan. Your proposal will replace historic primitive tent and trailer camping with cabin rentals and will discriminate against the less advantaged,” the coalition wrote in an objection letter shared with the Hungry Horse News.

The Coalition also noted it could allow for snowmobile use and a refueling station on the edge of the existing Bob Marshall Wilderness as well as the proposed Bunker-Alcove wilderness, which is a few miles east of the proposed cabins.

“The proposal will also greatly expand the day-reach and fuel-reach of over-snow vehicles into the upper reaches of both forks of Bunker Creek, which are critical wildlife habitats…” the letter continues.

Snelson said since the area burned “it’s seen pretty light use,” which is why the Forest Service chose the site to begin with.

The site is just off the Bunker Creek Road, which dead ends near the Gorge Creek Trailhead.

Gorge Creek leads into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Bunker Creek beyond the road closure is largely recommended wilderness under the Flathead National Forest’s 2018 plan.

Based upon preliminary analysis, the Forest anticipates this project falls within a category of actions listed in the Forest Service National Environmental Policy Act Handbook that are excluded from documentation in an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.

Additional information and maps for the project can be found on the Flathead National Forest website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/flathead/landmanagement/projects.

The Forest will update the website with additional information about the status of the project. The public should submit comments by April 6, 2021 to comments-northern-flathead-spotted-bear@usda.gov. For questions, please contact Scott Snelson, Spotted Bear District Ranger, at (406) 387-3800 or scott.snelson@usda.gov.