Sometime in September, we’ll reach a milestone that we’ve been working towards since the Gallatin Forest Partnership’s very first days: the release of the final Custer Gallatin National Forest (CGNF) Forest Plan.
For years, we’ve been encouraging the Forest Service to make sure the Forest Plan reflects the GFP Agreement and the interests of diverse forest users.
The Draft Final Plan, released in July 2020, was a good start. It recommended designating 92,092 acres of new Wilderness in the Gallatin Range, including 77,630 acres in the Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area, which is the first time that the Forest Service has recommended Wilderness in the range. It also recommended adding 4,466 acres of Wilderness to the Taylor-Hilgard unit of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in the Madison Range.
The plan designated West Pine as a non-motorized backcountry area, embraced our recommendation to improve mountain bike access in the area, prohibited future development and secured existing access for mountain bikes, dirt bikes, and snowmobiles in the Buffalo Horn Backcountry Area — all parts of the GFP agreement.
In her draft decision, Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson wrote that she “found the work of the Gallatin Forest Partnership to be the most compelling. … due to the area-specific recommendations combined with local knowledge, and the outreach and coalition-building across diverse interests that accompanied their proposal.”
In addition to this good start, the CGNF should adopt more of the GFP Agreement in the final plan to better protect our water, wildlife, and recreation.
The draft plan’s recommended Wilderness areas in the Gallatin Range and Taylor Hilgard were smaller than what the Agreement proposed and left Cowboy Heaven, on the west side of the Madison Range, out entirely. In Hyalite Canyon, the Draft Final Plan cuts the Partnership’s proposed Watershed Protection and Recreation Area in half, excluding South Cottonwood, Mt. Blackmore, and the Bozeman Creek watershed, which are some of the Gallatin Valley’s most popular recreation areas and important drinking water sources.
We’ve been working hard to make sure the final plan reflects the GFP Agreement more closely. We’re optimistic that there will be positive changes, and that the Forest Plan will account for the wildlife, wild places, incredible recreation, and clean water that make the Gallatin and Madison Ranges so special.
What’s more, the Forest Plan isn’t the final step in our effort to support everything we love about these places. Your support and involvement will be critical as we build a long-term future for the places we love, as will your willingness to let your friends and family know about why the Gallatin Forest Partnership Agreement is the way forward. Please encourage others to endorse the Agreement, and stay tuned for other ways you’ll be able to help in the near future.
Sneak Preview: GFP Story Map
Landscape-scale conservation is complicated. To make understanding the GFP Agreement easier, we’ve worked with Josh Gage of Gage Cartographic to develop a story map that shows key boundaries and important details of the Agreement. By scrolling through, you’ll be able to see how the Agreement will address the values we care about, and how all the pieces of the Agreement fit together with existing protected places like Yellowstone to create a vast complex of incredible wildlands.
We’ll be officially launching the map on our soon-to-be-redesigned website, but we wanted to give you an early chance to explore it as a thank-you for being a supporter of the Gallatin Forest Partnership!