Please submit comments via email to the Lolo National Forest Plan Revision team. There will also be in-person sessions at the Seeley Lake Ranger Station on April 7th at 1:00 PM and the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Department office in Missoula on April 21st at 1:00 PM. Follow along as the Forest Plan revision process unfolds by visiting this webpage and signing up for email updates at the Lolo Revision Web Hub.

Below you will find an example of a template email that you can adjust to make your own as a submission comment:

Dear Lolo National Forest Revision Team,

I am writing to express my strong desire to see an increased investment in local Avalanche Forecasting services and products. I am an avid winter backcountry recreationist, and I would benefit from a consistent and reliable forecast that only a Type 1 (7 days/week) avalanche center can provide. I regularly travel through avalanche terrain in the Lolo National Forest, and I feel it is the responsibility of the Forest Service to inform me of the ever-changing risks that such travel poses.

The Forest Service also believes it is responsible for keeping the public informed, as is outlined in Forest Service Manual 2300 in section 2357. I would like to see our local Forests comply with these directives, as outlined in 2357.14 and 2357.18. Both of these speak to staffing being the responsibility of the Forest Service, especially if there is a demand for such products from the local community. Many winter backcountry users venture into avalanche terrain on Forest Service land within the West Central Montana Avalanche Center (WCMAC) forecasting region. Despite its ongoing efforts, the non-profit West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation (WCMAF) has been unable to meet the growing community’s needs. With backcountry use increasing steadily, I believe it is time for the Forest Service to help make that happen so everyone can enjoy and benefit from a seven day per week avalanche forecast.

It seems the Forest Service is not fulfilling its directive to “maintain control of public safety products, ensure the consistency and quality of field operations and educational content” or its responsibilities to “address public and employee safety and (avalanche) awareness in the backcountry on NFS lands” through the current configuration of the WCMAC. I would like to see more involvement by the Forest Service to ensure reliable products.

Thank you for taking the time to review my comments.

Specific talking points to consider in making your comments to the Forest:

  • Personal use of Avalanche Center Products and an interest in seeing an expansion of the frequency of forecasts – ideally seven days/week
  • Desire to see our local Avalanche Center be supported by reliable funding that allows for the reliable delivery of high-quality products
  • An interest in seeing increased mountain weather stations in the West Central Montana region
  • A strong desire for the West Central Montana Avalanche Center to conform with Forest Service Manual 2300 – Recreation, Wilderness, and Related Resource Management. Specifically, section 2357 – Avalanche Information and Education Program.

Background on Forest Service Manual Directives:

  • The Congressional Authority for Forest Service supported Avalanche Centers outlined in 2357.01
  • The Forest Service currently has no one specifically employed to enact the policy outlined in 2357.03, specifically, as it states:
  1. Address public and employee safety and awareness in the backcountry on NFS lands through a network of avalanche centers that provide avalanche information and education to the public.
  2. Document all backcountry avalanche incidents on NFS lands that result in serious injury, death, or property damage, to the extent practicable.
  • The Forest Service is not complying with directive 2357.14, which states, “The Forest Service is responsible for field operations, avalanche forecasting, and contributing content and technical information to the avalanche center website. The cooperator maintains the copyright on the website and conducts fundraising and outreach. The cooperator may also help purchase some items, such as remote weather stations, which allow for the collection and distribution of avalanche information related to public safety and may retain ownership of major capital investments at an avalanche center. Avalanche education is a shared responsibility between partners.”
  • Consider speaking to section 2357.18, Working with Non-Governmental Avalanche Centers. It states, “If a non-governmental entity’s objective includes providing products and services that are comparable to the AIEP’s (Avalanche Information and Education Program) and the non-governmental entity has the organizational capacity and capability to do so, consider entering into a cooperative agreement or memorandum of understanding with or issuing a special use authorization to the non-governmental entity, as appropriate, for those purposes.” The West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation and Center does not have reliable, secure funding to operate at the capacity that the community demands (i.e., seven day/week forecasting), and its ability to continue on a three day/week basis are tenuous and based solely on the organization’s ability to fundraise.
  • 2357.22i states the Forest Service shall “Maintain control of public safety products, and ensure the consistency and quality of field operations and educational content. “This is not the case in the WCMAC forecasting region.