Popular rock climbing routes in Mill Creek Canyon in the Bitterroot National Forest are closed in an annual restriction to allow birds to nest in the area. Most of the closures are on the north side of the canyon, where established nests of raptors such as falcons will be occupied by the birds and, more importantly, their eggs.

Tod McKay of the Bitterroot National Forest (BNF) said the closure is the same as last year and included the "Pie for Strength" climbing route, along with some south side routes that were added last year. Those nests will be checked this spring to see if they're still being used. McKay said if the nests are abandoned, the restrictions will go away.

There will be maps and signs at the Mill Creek trailhead, along with "Leave No Trace Climbing" brochures, which are also available at the Hamilton, Stevensville, Darby and West Fork BNF offices. A reminder for climbers (and hikers and horseback riders) to follow the "Leave No Trace" and "Pack It In, Pack It Out" policies to keep the area in good shape.

McKay said the forest is working on a comprehensive Climbing Management Plan to reduce conflicts, lower the impacts on the environment and protect the popular climbing opportunities. There are climbing tips and recommendations at the Bitterroot National Forest website. Click on the Recreation and Climbing tab. If you need more information, call the Stevensville Ranger District at (406) 777-5461. By the way, a great resource for current conditions and other developments on the Bitterroot National Forest is on their Discover the Bitterroot Facebook page.

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