Thursday, July 25, 2024

Opinion: Green gate forever changed

Editor | December 27, 2023 2:00 AM

During the pandemic I would hike the Half Moon “green gate” trail on occasion, as Glacier National Park was closed to entry for a few weeks at the height of the mess.

The green gate is nothing to write home about. It’s primarily in the trees (at least it used to be) and as far as wildlife viewing, things were minimal. You’d see an occasional deer, though the wetlands and ponds were kinda cool with lots of different songbirds and skunk cabbage, which, as the name implies, smell pretty skunky, but have a gorgeous flower when they first sprout early in the spring.

It wasn’t Glacier, of course, but still a pleasant enough walk and a lot of locals use the trails because you can ride bicycles and walk your dogs there. Also, Swan Mountain Outfitters uses the trail system for horseback rides.

But now they’ll be riding on roads — at least for the main route, as the Forest Service has seen fit to run a road right down the middle of the trail corridor.

In some places, hell, many places, you can’t even tell the trail was there. And they’re not done, if the survey route stakes are to be believed, the road will run a stone’s throw from the above-mentioned wetlands.

Let me make this clear: I have no problem with thinning local forests, particularly thick stands of lodegpole pine.

But running a road down a trail that was heavily used for recreational, commercial and simply pleasurable purposes makes no sense to me. It makes even less sense adjacent to a wetland.

One could chalk this up to the legacy of former Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele, but there are also systemic problems with these projects that pre-date Steele.

I went back and looked at the final project maps and they show the trail as a road — not sure how that could be, but that’s the way it is on the map.

Oh well, it’s a road now.

This project could have used logging haul routes out of there without obliterating the trails. It’s not like that forest is in overly challenging terrain.

The Forest Service can do much better and it knows it can. 

That’s what’s sad. That’s what’s disappointing. But then again, I’m getting used to being disappointed in the Forest Service leadership.