The Blackfoot Community Conservancy Area (BCCA) is an innovative initiative for land conservation being pursued as a joint effort between The Nature Conservancy and The Blackfoot Challenge . When completed, approximately 5600 acres of former Plum Creek Timber Company lands purchased by The Nature Conservancy will be turned over to the Blackfoot Challenge for management as a community conservation area. These lands are part of a much larger purchase of Plum Creek lands (approximately 88,000 acres) in the Blackfoot River drainage. They were purchased in an effort to preserve their natural resource values and prevent fragmentation of the western Montana landscape.
In anticipation of this event, a council was appointed by the Blackfoot Challenge board of directors to come up with a proposed management plan for the BCCA. This plan may eventually be expanded to include additional adjoining lands under ownership of federal agencies ( U.S. Forest Service ), state agencies ( Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife and Parks , Montana Dept. of Natural Resources ), and several neighboring private landowners. The council is composed of people representing different recreational and commercial users in the local community, neighboring private landowners, and state and federal agencies of adjoining lands.
In anticipation of this work, a survey of the local community was conducted to assess the community members' desires and expectations for how the area would be managed and used. Since the above link is an executive summary and lists only a portion of the survey results, we are providing more complete results .
After well over a year of work, the BCCA management council brought their draft management plan to the local community. It included a provision for motorized travel which allowed all motor vehicles unlimited access along the following routes: the boot tree road up to the Martin Park area, a branching road from the Monture Creek road into DNRC lands to the west, and up the McCabe Creek road to the northwest. It also provided for several seasonal road openings: during elk hunting season, the southern haul road would be open as far as a few hundred yards west of Doney Reservoir, and a spur road over to the DNRC lands to the west would be open; the Little Red Hills road to the northwest would also be open except during hunting season. This is also the current open roads policy. ( Map ).
Most of the community seemed content with this proposal. However, a group of motorized enthusiasts was not, and voiced dissatisfaction with the fact that so few roads were open. They were invited by the moderator of the management council to bring a proposal to the council. After several months, they made a presentation to the BCCA management council on 3-April-2007. The presentation did not propose any specific routes or introduce any supporting data. As we have no link to the proposal on the web, we have transformed the electronic version to a web capable format and provided a link to that for reference: Presentation by Motorized Users . Please note that while the paper is entitled "BCCA Motorized Trail Use Recommendations" and contains the footnote "Recommendations as approved by workgroup -- March 28, 2007," the paper is not a product of the BCCA management council.
The council began discussing possibilities for expanded motorized routes, seeking loop roads in particular.
A number of people in the community became concerned, as the only possible outcome of this discussion seemed to be expanded motorized use, with no consideration for the compromises already made during months of intense discussion by the BCCA management council members.
As a consequence, we prepared a slide presentation which was presented to the management council on 1-May-2007. It is not as complete as we would like, but given our limited preparation time window we feel it represented our position adequately. The purpose of the presentation was straightforward: we wanted the council to stick with its original proposal. That proposal allowed limited motorized use; given the high public focus on wildlife and other forms of recreation as expressed by the survey, we feel expanded motorized use is unjustified.
During the presentation, numerous questions were asked by members of the council which prompted discussion amongst the council and other members of the public who were present. One topic which stands out which was not addressed on these slides is different species' potential for habituation to disturbances. In addition, Jay Kolbe, the management council representative for the Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, suggested a scientific paper done by the Montana chapter of The Wildlife Society as a source for more information.
Copies of the presentation were brought for distribution to council members. However, following the presentation the council requested an electronic copy of the presentation. Since other members of the public were also interested, and since there has been some misunderstanding about what we actually presented to the council, we decided to put it on the web instead of having to continually send people the presentation. A few of the slides have been modified slightly to correct errors; these modifications have been noted at the bottom of the slides. We have also included links to other documents pertaining to the discussion to give the reader a more complete context.