by David Cole, Friends of Pipestone
Friends of Pipestone had its first exploratory meeting on January 21, 2012, in Whitehall, Montana, with approximately 35 people in attendance. The meeting primarily summarized Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U. S. Forest Service (USFS) work, as well as issues considered “critical” to the agencies. BLM work included 2.5 weeks of mechanized trail maintenance, fencing, hand trail work, and obtaining a permit for a motorcycle race. The USFS provided a list of some of their more-critical issues, including water quality (cutthroat trout), sedimentation, and wildlife corridors which might require “route reductions.” The concept of a group dedicated to working with the USFS and BLM on Whitetail Pipestone issues was brought up and a public meeting was held on June 18, 2012.
Nineteen people attended that meeting. Friends of Pipestone officers, a Maintenance Committee, and a Website Committee were “elected” or appointed. The meeting topics included Short-term goals, Long-term goals, grant monies that were available, and concerns/priorities of the management agencies. USFS goals included maintenance and management of Whitetail/Pipestone for a variety of recreational uses, sedimentation issues impacting the Jefferson Slew, working cooperatively on the future Travel Plan process, education in schools regarding sustainability and on-the-right-trail information dissemination. Possible grant funding sources were also discussed including the Recreational Trails Program and grants from Polaris and Yamaha.
After the June 18, 2012 meeting there was a steady e-mail flow for most of a year, with numerous “titles,” including Mission Statement, By Laws, Articles of Incorporation, 501(c)(3), Sign-up Forms, Grant Applications, FOP Website, Newsletter, FOP Logo, Whitetail/Pipestone User Maps, Challenge Cost Share Agreement, Grant Money, and RTP Update. Perhaps the most-significant accomplishment in 2012 may have been the cooperative work among the BLM, USFS, and Friends of Pipestone to create a user travel map, showing existing trails, roads, etc. The agencies combined their existing data bases, as they currently existed, which were printed on a travel-plan type map. Friends of Pipestone used grant money to print 20,000 copies of the map. They have been distributed to numerous off-road dealerships in Montana, and have been available in Whitehall at several locations, as well as in the Whitetail/Pipestone area.
In addition to the items above, Friends of Pipestone has had a number of trail work days since its inception. These activities are part of the Challenge Cost Share agreement Friends of Pipestone has with the Forest Service, to match the Forest Service’s labor. Some of the work that has been accomplished includes re-decking of a bridge, fence repair in several locations including Ringing Rocks, clearing the east half of the Nez Perce trail of logs and brush/misc. intruding onto the trail, various clean-up efforts on the roads and camping areas, removal of approximately 12 cubic yards of mostly-wet sand by hand, removal of a large rock from a trail, installation of new kiosks obtained with State Parks OHV program grant money, and other miscellaneous items that were not reported or recorded. The latest workday was October 3, 2015 with the primary emphasis on working on the east side of the Nez Perce trail to remove logs and obstacles from the trail, deal with sedimentation issues, work on a bridge across a swamp (replace two boards and remove rotted logs along edges of bridge), and deal with a stream crossing – removal of numerous large rocks (2.4 miles up the single-track trail from the Whitetail Reservoir road)