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Early Public Involvement Crucial to Successful Resource Planning

by Craig Flentie, Lewistown FO 

Men looking at vegetation

RAC subgouop members and BLMers discuss trails and travel in the North Moccasin Mountains.  Photo by Adam Carr

Involving citizens early in public resource planning often helps create better decisions.
This axiom has proven itself over and over again and the Lewistown Field Office is currently benefiting from early public involvement with several planning efforts.
One of those efforts is travel/road/trail management in the Judith and Moccasin Mountains near Lewistown. As many know, travel planning can create a life of its own because the differing wants and needs are so extremely diverse between motorized and non-motorized users.   
Nearly a year ago, the Lewistown FO approached the Central Montana Resource Advisory Council (RAC) about creating a subgroup to help entwine the public’s opinions with any recommendations the RAC may convey to the Lewistown FO concerning trails and travel in the Judith and Moccasin Mountains.
The subgroup began taking shape about six months ago and has since conducted several public meetings and a field trip into the North Moccasin Mountains to verify various roads and trails shown on BLM maps and discuss management options. As common sense and regulation would require, the subgroup consists of a good mixture of interests including, but not limited to landowners, hikers, horseback riders and motorized interests.
The subgroup plans to host similar field trips into the South Moccasin and Judith Mountains this summer. With the information and ideas generated by these field trips and public meetings, the subgroup plans to craft the fundamentals of a travel plan for the RAC to consider. In turn, the RAC will include all or a portion of the subgroup’s product in a recommendation(s) to the Lewistown FO.
Subgroups are not easy. An effective group depends upon dedicated citizens willing to give of their time and ability while representing their peers in delicate public resource discussions. 
“The consensus-driven process that this diverse RAC subgroup is going though will be immensely helpful to the BLM in developing a credible, well-conceived travel plan that provides something for the wide range of uses that the recreating public desires,” according to June Bailey, Lewistown field manager.