Custer Gallatin Forest Planning
The Custer Gallatin National Forest stretches across 400 miles – from West Yellowstone, MT to Camp Crook, SD – and encompasses 9 different mountain ranges, including the highest peaks in Montana. The forest offers every kind of skiing imaginable and it’s home to some of the finest ice climbing in the country. Although people visit the Custer Gallatin in all seasons, it’s truly a special place for winter recreation enthusiasts.
The Custer Gallatin is within close proximity to one of the fastest growing communities in the country – Bozeman, MT – and the outdoor recreation opportunities on the forest are a major reason people are moving to the area. The forest is also an integral part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. There are few other places in the country where world-class outdoor recreation opportunities overlap with a landscape as wild, and intact, as the Custer Gallatin.
Right now the Forest Service is revising the Custer Gallatin Forest Plan and working to figure out how to manage the forest for the next 20-30 years. In this forest plan revision we are faced with the challenge of ensuring that growing populations and increasing recreation use on the forest are balanced with protecting the forest’s unique and important ecological role. With your help, we can strike that balance.
We are working closely with a number of partners on this forest plan revision. Winter Wildlands Alliance is a member of the Gallatin Forest Partnership (GFP) and helped to craft a proposal to protect the wildlife and undeveloped lands of the Gallatin and Madison ranges while also providing plenty of access for all the different ways people recreate within them. The GFP Agreement strives to balance conservation, recreation, and wildlife values and is supported by a wide range of people who live, work, and recreate in and around the Gallatin and Madison Ranges. We are also a member of Outdoor Alliance Montana (OAMT), and worked with our mountain bike, paddling, and climbing partners to develop a vision for the Custer Gallatin that seeks to protect wildlands and the wildlife they support while enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities. The OAMT vision includes the GFP Agreement as well as recommendations for areas of the forest beyond the Gallatin and Madison ranges. Click here to read more about OAMT’s vision for the Custer Gallatin.
In July 2020 the Forest Service published a final draft, final Environmental Impact Statement, and draft Record of Decision. The full shebang is online here. The 60-day objection period ends on September 8, 2020.
The new Plan makes some significant gains in protecting wild lands, wildlife habitat, and quiet recreation with a mixture of Wilderness recommendations and management prescriptions that limit the spread of motorized recreation, road building, and development. For example, the Plan includes a large Recommended Wilderness area protecting the core of the Gallatin Range, stretching from Yellowstone National Park to Hyalite Peak. The Plan also designates an Area of Tribal Interest in the Crazy Mountains – the first time we’ve seen this designation in a Forest Plan – to recognize the traditional and ongoing cultural significance these mountains hold for the Apsáalooke (Crow). We’re glad to see the Forest Service committing to work more closely with the Crow Tribe and to honor treaty obligations. We’re also pleased to see that the Plan establishes a Recreation Emphasis Area in the Bridger Mountains, encompassing Bridger Bowl Ski Resort, Crosscut Mountain Sports Center, and most of the backcountry ski terrain in the Bridgers. The Bridgers see a lot of recreation use in all seasons, and the Recreation Emphasis Area designation will help to sustainably manage this use.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag though – alongside these commendable elements are several shortcomings that we will be working to remedy during the objection period.
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