While the amount of land in the western United States is certainly expansive in scope, the vast majority is owned by the Federal government. While this certainly preserves the land from unwanted development for future generations, it also at times imposes harsh limits on access, especially if motorized recreation is your passion.
Case in point is the federally designated “proposed” wilderness area in western Montana and eastern Idaho. Known as the Great Burn Wilderness, aptly named due to an epic forest fire that originally torched the area in 1910, was listed as a “potential” wilderness way back in 1977 when the Montana Wilderness Study Act was imposed. There in however lies the rub. When the Wilderness Act of 1964 was implemented it stated o vehicles or mechanized equipment would be allowed in designated wilderness areas unless exceptions were granted, most of which would be related to emergency situations. The Great Burn however is a “proposed” wilderness area, but a 2011 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling has lumped the proposed in areas in with the actual ones, thus eliminating motorized access.
The Missoula based Backcountry Sled Patriots are looking to alter this course with executive order signed by President Trump. With the letter drafted, the group has been garnering additional support before sending it off to Washington. Already Mineral County and Lincoln County have voted in favor of signing the letter, while Ravalli County will take it under consideration very soon.
“We’re just trying to regain something that was taken away from us. It’s public land – why are we banned just because other users don’t like us?” said Backcountry Sled Patriots president Stan Spencer.
To learn more about the Great Burn access battle, read the complete story HERE with a story by Laura Lundquist of the Missoula Current