Blackfoot Valley Dispatch - The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

By Roger Dey

Virtual open house introduces Lincoln Prosperity Proposal to wider audience

New LPP website unveiled


October 29, 2020

A screen shot shows the Lincoln Prosperity Proposal website homepage.

The Lincoln Prosperity Group - formerly the Upper Blackfoot Working Group – hosted a Virtual Open House Oct. 19 to gather feedback on the Lincoln Prosperity Proposal from Helena-area residents.

The event was the first in a series of virtual open houses planned over the next three months, to introduce Montanans outside the Upper Blackfoot to the collaborative plan for public land management in the Lincoln area.

The open houses are part of the final push to refine the proposal with additional input from Montana outside the Upper Blackfoot. The group hopes to submit the finalized proposal to Montana's congressional delegation early in 2021.

The open house was also the public debut of the new Lincoln Prosperity Proposal website,

The LPP is a legislative proposal for the management of some 200,000 acres of public land from the Scapegoat Wilderness, south through the Nevada Mountain region.

"This is a proposal that has come together over the last five years with divers interests , diverse folks who care about the Lincoln area, including many community members, all with the purpose of creating a brighter future for the community and protecting some really important things about the surrounding landscape," Jordan Reeves of the Wilderness Society explained at the outset of the meeting.

The virtual meeting covered plans for preserving and expanding motorized and non-motorized outdoor recreation, active forest restoration to address forest health and wildfire threats, the proposed establishment of Conservation Management Areas to the north and east of Lincoln, additions to the Scapegoat Wilderness and the proposed creation of a Nevada Mountain Wilderness area.

Prior to taking the proposal public locally in 2019, the Lincoln Prosperity Group reached out to more than 175 individual and group stakeholders, earning support from motorized groups, mountain bikers, hunting organizations, small businesses and the Lincoln Valley Chamber of Commerce.

"Our lifestyle here resolves around the National Forest, from mining to logging to recreation and hunting. Our whole town depends on our national forest," Lincoln's Bill Cyr told the open house guests . "We came together as a group ... about five or six years ago. Everybody was pretty frustrated with the status quo of our National Forest. The outcomes weren't working really well for us."

"I think Lincoln wants what most small towns want," said Karyn Good, a Lincoln resident and community organizer who has been instrumental in coordinating both the LPP and the local economic development effort Envision Lincoln "We want local businesses to thrive; we want people who visit Lincoln to enjoy our community, and we want young families to be able to make a living and stay in the valley."

Lincoln Fire Chief Zach Muse discussed the community safety concerns addressed by the proposal. "Hopefully our proposal... when it goes through, it's going to allow more forest restoration, whether it's for better health of the forest, better for habitat, better for the streams, and obviously for fire (mitigation)."

He said the proposal gives the Forest Service more tools in their tool box to address issues on the national forest lands around the Upper Blackfoot.

Following the presentation, group members answered questions posed by the meeting's participants.

Robert Rasmussen inquired about the LPPs relationship to the upcoming Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Plan Revision.

"We're not working with the Forest Service on this," Muse replied. "We're not incorporating anything we're doing with the Forest Service. We do try to keep them informed of what we're doing."

Though the Forest Plan is a guiding document for the HLCNF, Muse noted the proposal itself would be enacted as law by Congress. As law, the proposal would have precedence over the Forest Plan. Reeves said group members have commented during development of the Forest Plan revision, so some elements do overlap.

Thomas Kilmer asked about involvement of the Montana Wilderness Association and John Gatchell. Reeves said the MWA has been involved in the collaboration since day one, and was also involved in several travel plan agreements. He noted John Gatchell recently retired, with Zach Angstead stepping into his role.

Kilmer, who had several questions, also asked about the Helmville-Gould Trail's inclusion in the proposed Nevada Mountain Wilderness.

Mountain biking advocate and group member Eric Grove explained the proposed wilderness boundary was pushed further north as part of a compromise. Helmville-Gould is designated as a mountain bike route, which is incongruous with Nevada Mountain's designation as either wilderness or Recommended Wilderness. Grove said they walked away from the mountain bike trail designation out of respect for the wilderness designation, and in exchange for support for a non-motorized route north of Stemple Pass Road. He said they feel the new proposed route provides a better mountain bike experience, and provides CDT hikers with a route right to the edge of Lincoln.

An anonymous guest questioned the proposal's actual effect on Lincoln economy.

"Lincoln used to be an industry community. With the shortage of industry jobs now, our community has really had to re-identify itself," said Good who sees the LPP affecting the economy for the better. "We have done that through recreation."

She explained that Lincoln has become a hub for ATVs enthusiasts and the LPP would add ATV trails and connectors that would improve their experience. Likewise, she noted Lincoln has few purpose-built mountain bike trails and trails in the LPP would bring more recreation to Lincoln.

Looking beyond recreation, she added that forest restoration would provide jobs in the woods that would help keep young families here.

Several questions revolved around possible changes in proposed Conservation Management Areas.

Group member Eric Clewis with the Montana Wildlife Federation, said they function the same as those in the heritage act; anything that is currently allowed on the landscape will continue to be on the landscape. Reeves summed up CMAs with five words: "Keep it like it is."

Due to time constraints, they didn't have time to address additional questions, but Reeves said additional information is available on the new website.

Reeves said Montana's Congressional delegation needs to know people support the LPP. He pointed out a "Take Action" link on the website that allows people to input their contact information and, hopefully, an endorsement of the proposal.


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