Keep the Pacific Northwest Trail route as is

March 16, 2020 11:08 AM

We are writing, as the Board of County Commissioners for Lincoln County, to share our strong opposition to the southern re-route proposed by the Yaak Valley Forest Council (YVFC).

We have thoroughly researched the issues surrounding the trail. We have met and worked with representatives of Boundary County, Idaho; The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho; Yaak Valley Forest Council; Kootenai National Forest; and the Pacific Northwest Trail Association. Our analysis has led to the following conclusions, which serve as the basis for our opposition:

1. The economic impacts to Troy and Libby are greatly inflated and lack a comprehensive, validated study.

2. The impact of the trail on the grizzly bear population is unsubstantiated. We have not seen a peer-reviewed study to support the theory of significant impacts to bears by hiking trails. There are peer-reviewed studies by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that refute these claims. They identify some displacement from hiking and horseback trails, but none show an increased mortality risk or population impacts from displacement. Casual observation of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, including Glacier National Park, shows a recovered and growing bear population. The amount of hikers in these areas is magnitudes more than those that take the trail in the Yaak, now or in the future.

3. The trail will incur a half-mile management restriction zone on either side of the trail, equal to 640 acres of restrictions for every mile of trail. The southern route moves the trail from already heavily restricted forestlands to, arguably, the best suitable timber base on the forest. Out of 2.2 million acres on the Kootenai National Forest, 780,000 are suitable timber base and we will not support any re-route that increases restricted acres, only routes that are neutral or decrease those acres.

4. There have been formal requests for a public information meeting in the Yaak, which have not been honored. We will not support any re-routing without public input from the citizens and businesses impacted by the current route and affected by any changes to it.

In summary, we do not support the southern re-route of the PNT as presented by the YVFC. We may be supportive of the option presented by the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho as it decreases the mileage and therefore restrictions. The City of Troy must be in concurrence for our support. Thank you for your consideration.

County Commissioners Mark Peck, Jerry Bennett and Josh Letcher