BLM proposes restrictions for Blackfoot River, Garnet Ghost Town
Laura Lundquist/Missoula Current
The Bureau of Land Management is proposing a few rules for managing sites along the Blackfoot River. While some aren’t all that new, some were created to deal with the increasing numbers of people who use the area.
The Missoula Office of the BLM is seeking public comment on 10 proposed rules that would be supplementary to the Missoula Resource Management Plan, which provides guidance for all management activities on about 163,000 acres of BLM land within Missoula, Granite and Powell counties.
The most recent Missoula plan was finally published in January 2021 after a contentious process during the Trump administration that resulted in public protest over excessive resource extraction proposals and a lawsuit that required the BLM to rewrite the plan.
Now, the Missoula Office is proposing to add additional rules that were originally part of the 2019 draft plan and the February 2020 environmental impact statement but were left out of the final plan. The Missoula Office wants to insert them in the plan so the rules will be more clearly understood and can be enforced, especially since some deal only with specific sites, according to an Aug. 4 Federal Register posting.
Four restrictions would apply to all Missoula Office BLM lands and are intended to prevent resource damage and reduce user conflicts and safety hazards. One would set a 72-hour limit on leaving personal property such as trailers, tents or coolers unattended at campsites. The intent is to curb the formation of transient camps, along with any associated garbage.
Another would prohibit using airsoft or paintball guns to shoot over roads, trails or waterbodies or within 150 yards of structures or camps. This is intended to reduce the number of false alarms law enforcement keeps getting about the use of ‘‘guns’’ in highly visited areas.
Another prohibits burning treated lumber or wood containing nails and screws because it not only leaves garbage on public lands but could also damage visitors’ tires. The fourth rule limits the creation of memorials to give managers the flexibility to decide the appropriate uses of public lands as well as avoid conflicts and resource damage.
The remaining rules deal with individual sites, some of them within the four newly designated Special Recreation Management Areas of the Blackfoot River, Garnet Ghost Town, Chamberlain and the Limestone Cliffs.
Two new rules would apply to the entire Blackfoot Special Recreation Management Areas. No jumping is allowed from any bridges for public safety. Day-use areas are closed between 10 a.m. and 5 a.m. to prohibit illegal camping.
Bear Creek Flats is one of the newly created river-access-only campsites along the Blackfoot River so one rule would add requirements there that are identical to all the other river campsites.
Within the Chamberlain SRMA, southeast of Clearwater Junction on State Highway 200, no shooting or vehicle use is allowed on the DuPont land as required by the original acquisition agreement. The rest of the SRMA has been created to support walk-in hunting and winter recreation.
Access restrictions would be placed on the nearby Sperry Grade area to conform with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks management of the Blackfoot-Clearwater Game Range. No entrance is allowed from November 11 to May 14 to protect the elk and elk winter range. This has been the plan since the BLM acquired the Sperry Grade in 1992.
For the area around Garnet Ghost Town, the rules would prohibit metal detectors, camping and campfires, smoking or shooting, and all pets must be on a leash. This would help reduce wildfire threats to the fragile late-19th-century buildings and damage to artifacts that comprise the popular tourist area.
Finally, in the Limestone Cliffs just east of Garnet Ghost Town, a rule prohibiting the installation of permanent climbing hardware are needed to protect the unique geological feature of the cliffs, which are an integral part of the 50-acre SRMA. Additional rules prohibiting shooting and pets without a leash are for safety while people are climbing along the cliffs.
Comments on any of the proposed rules are due Oct. 3. You may submit comments by the following methods: email to BLM_MT_Missoula_FO@blm.gov; or mail comments to Proposed Supplementary Rule, BLM Missoula Field Office, 3255 Fort Missoula Road, Missoula, MT 59804, Attention: Erin Carey, Missoula Field Manager.
Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at firstname.lastname@example.org.