Current Issues

HHAA believe that not only are we blessed to live in The Last Best Place, but that we as citizens and sportsmen and women have an obligation to ensure that it remains that way.  To that end, we take the time to systematically evaluate proposals that would alter wildlife habitats. And when necessary, HHAA engages in due process to affect the outcome.   Read on to see “Our Take” on the following issues

“It is the expansion of transport without a corresponding growth of perception that threatens us with qualitative bankruptcy of the recreational process.” – Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac.  

Tenmile-South Helena Project

In keeping with HHAA’s mission to preserve wildlife habitat, and particularly the last remnants of wild country that persist as Inventoried Roadless Areas, HHAA has challenged the Tenmile-South Helena Forest Project (TSH).  The stronghold of big game security in this area, south of Helena, persists in two Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRA): Lazyman (Black Mountain) IRA and Jericho Mountain IRA.

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The TSH Project (61,395 acres), together with the on-going Telegraph Project (23,669 acre), extends across 85,000 acres from Interstate 15 near Clancy almost to Interstate 90 west of Deerlodge.  Within that area, more than 23,526 acres (about 37 square miles) are being, or would be logged/burned.  

The TSH Project would log or burn 17,848 acres, while the Telegraph Project would log and burn 5,678 acres.  The two projects adjoin each other along the crest of the Continental Divide, constituting a massive project.  Several other projects have occurred within the boundaries of these two projects in the past, so cumulative effects are substantial.

Helena Hunters and Anglers Association and Montana Wildlife Federation legally challenged only those activities occurring within the Lazyman and Jericho Mountain Inventoried Roadless Areas requiring use of mechanized equipment on 4,200 acres.  Acceptable activities within the IRAs include timber harvest and burning, accomplished with hand tools. And, HHAA also endorses clearing on public within100 yards of private land (called private land buffers). 

Mountain bike trails within the Lazyman and Jericho Mountain Inventoried Roadless Areas have not existed, and to retain habitat security, mountain bike trails should not be developed (see Recreational Impact References, below).

These caveats are driven by HHAA’s concern for wildlife habitat and denigration of big game security in particular.  Resolution regarding these issues is pending a District Court decision by April 1, 2020.

Big Game Security Amendment

Big Game Security is a foundational issue for HHAA, and its protection and enhancement drives much of what we do.  In essence, big game security is competition for space: the science and politics of big game security is revealed in attached documents.  

HHAA’s stated responsibility to defend wildlife habitat, that provides big game security, drives our position on everything from hunting seasons to land management proposals.  

Forest Service policy changed with respect to Forest Plan standards that, in the past, have defined big game security as requiring vegetative cover.  

That deviation came when amendments to the Forest Plan deleted forest cover as a criteria for big game security.  

These amendments came out with Travel Plan revisions for Divide and Blackfoot. [Link to C2-Divide Travel Plan] 

HHAA challenged these amendments, both at the Forest Service Objection process where they were ignored, then in court.  

The HLCNF withdrew the amendment for Divide, but continued to use it in the TSH Project.  

City of Helena Tenmile-South Helena Forest Restoration Collaborative Committee’s comments recommending “protecting Roadless area values in the project area, especially in the Lazyman IRA that has previously been proposed for wilderness designation.  As such, the Collaborative recommends that the USFS not use heavy, mechanized equipment (skidders, forwarders, etc.) in the Lazyman IRA, with the exception of private land buffers” (at 9.6).

LINK to page: B2b – Inventoried Roadless Areas — B2bb Lazyman-Black Mountain IRA

HHAA will continue to fight for forest cover as a criteria for big game security. 

[Link back to B2a – Big Game Security – under Habitat (B2)] {not necessary if Allie hasn’t done – delete this}

Photos of illegal road constructed in March 2020 to the Lazyman IRA. This road, which the Forest Service says is a FEATURE, not a road, is 22’ wide and extends approximately one-half mile to and along the IRA boundary.

Recreation Impact References

The stated Purpose and Need of the TSH project is to:  maintain consistent quantity and quality of water within the City of Helena’s Tenmile municipal watershed, as well as improve conditions for public and firefighter safety across the landscape in the event of a wildfire.   

Two years after the project was proposed, and nine months after a Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released, mountain bike trails were incorporated into the project.  

The integrity of wildlife habitat within the roadless areas would be compromised by many miles of proposed trails.  

Little doubt exists that recreational impacts compromise wildlife and their habitat – as the scientific literature demonstrates.  

Particularly within the IRAs, HHAA contends that constructing trails suitable for mountain bikes is not in the best interest of either wildlife or the wild character of these areas.