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Final decision coming on mountain bikes in Bitterroot wilderness

HAMILTON – Regional US Forest Service managers believe the agency’s original decision banning mountain bikes in Wilderness Study Areas on the Bitterroot National Forest was the right approach.

But the final decision is being left up to the new supervisor of the Bitterroot National Forest Service.

It was almost three years ago that then-Forest Supervisor Julie King signed the Bitterroot Travel Plan which formalized restrictions on motorized, and mountain bike travel in the Sapphire and Blue Joint Wilderness Study Areas.

Mountain bike groups challenged the plan in court, and a federal judge upheld the argument that the agency had changed some of the regulations after the original comment period.

Now, a regional reviewing officer has finished combing through more than 3,000 additional comments, recommending the original closures, which impact just over 120 miles of trails.

But at the same time, new Forest Supervisor Matt Anderson is being given the leeway to work with bike groups to see if some compromise ideas from the Bitterroot Backcountry Cyclists are workable.

However, that might raise a legal challenge from hiking groups.

Dennis Bragg

Dennis Bragg

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