Elk NetworkLand Exchange Plan Altered in Montana

General | December 17, 2020

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) will proceed with a land exchange in the Crazy Mountains of west-central Montana, but it will not include its most contentious pieces.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation joined sportsmen and women by submitting public comment against the proposal that included giving up two sections of publicly accessible land featuring quality elk and deer habitat. The USFS originally offered the 1,305 acres from the two sections in exchange for 1,920 acres of land owned by the tobacco company Philip Morris higher in the mountain range.

“We strongly feel that existing public access should always be a factor when disposing of federal lands and we urge the Custer-Gallatin National Forest to thoroughly analyze and heavily weigh the loss of existing public access to these two sections,” Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer, wrote in his public comment letter. “In our opinion, these sections are not ideal candidates for an exchange.”

RMEF generally supports land exchanges that improve the management of private and public land but the mentioned sections are a major public land asset in the immediate area due to their high quality, mid-elevation wildlife habitat.

The USFS does plan to exchange 1,920 acres of other federal land for 1,877 acres of private land elsewhere in the Crazies.

Access to the Crazy Mountains remains tricky in many places. In 2019, RMEF provided funding for construction of a new trail that provides public access for hunters, hikers and others to the west side of the range.

(Photo source: Custer Gallatin National Forest)