Businesses, Recreation, Conservation Groups Celebrate Custer Gallatin Forest Plan

Businesses, Recreation, Conservation Groups Celebrate Custer Gallatin Forest Plan

Gallatin Forest Partnership cites historic progress for water quality, wildlife, and recreation

Bozeman – Today, the U.S Forest Service released the record of decision for the final Custer Gallatin National Forest plan

Representatives of the Gallatin Forest Partnership shared their satisfaction that the plan takes historic steps to protect clean water, wildlife, recreation, and wild places across the Madison and Gallatin ranges. See statements of support from community members and local stakeholders below. 

In the Gallatin and Madison ranges, the forest plan closely follows the recommendations made by the Gallatin Forest Partnership at the start of the planning process. Developed by a grassroots group of diverse recreation, conservation, business, and community interests, the Partnership’s agreement called for wide-ranging land protections, including historic wilderness designations, continued recreation access, and a comprehensive package of designations including wildlife management areas and watershed and recreation areas to secure wildlife habitat, clean water, and recreational access.

To date, the Gallatin Forest Partnership Agreement has been endorsed by over 1,000 individuals, businesses, and organizations, including the Gallatin, Park, and Madison County commissions.

As the guiding document for the entire Custer Gallatin National Forest, the new forest plan replaces a plan that had been in effect since 1987. During the six year planning process, over 21,000 public comments were submitted to the Forest Service. 

Highlights of the new forest plan include:

  • 92,532 acres of recommended wilderness in the Gallatin Range between Hyalite Lake and Yellowstone, including the majority of the Hyalite Porcupine Buffalo Horn Wilderness Study Area 
  • 26,496 acres of backcountry area designation in the southwestern Porcupine Buffalo Horn
  • 22,632 acres of designations to protect wildlife habitat and support mountain bike access in West Pine
  • 17,642 acres of recommended wilderness additions to the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in the Madison Range, including 13,176 acres in Cowboy Heaven
  • 50,000 acres protecting water quality, wildlife, and recreation access in Hyalite Canyon and around South Cottonwood Creek

Statements of support for the new forest plan

“Public lands are our greatest asset, in Big Sky and across our region. The Big Sky Chamber of Commerce commends the USFS for their time and effort in developing a new plan for the Madison and Gallatin Ranges that sets the stage for a prosperous and sustainable future. We still have a lot to do to secure strong futures for our incredible public lands and thriving communities, and we look forward to legislation to protect this wonderful area in perpetuity, for the benefit of all.” – Brad Niva, executive director, Big Sky Chamber of Commerce

Gallatin Valley Backcountry Horsemen worked hard within the Gallatin Forest Partnership to reach agreement with different recreational interests to protect the wild lands and wildlife of the Gallatin and Madison Ranges. We’re gratified to see many important parts of this agreement adopted as the final management plan for our backyard public lands. The new plan maintains important opportunities for traditional recreational saddle and pack stock, and we congratulate the Custer Gallatin National Forest on finalizing it. – Chris Nygren, Gallatin Valley Back Country Horsemen

The Gallatin Forest Partnership Agreement provides a long-term vision to protect wildlife, solitude, clean water, and recreation in the Madison and Gallatin ranges. I’d like to thank the Forest Service for incorporating large aspects of the Agreement into the forest plan. Our children deserve to see a wild future for these special places, and I’m optimistic Congress will finish the job by acting quickly to protect what makes our wild backyard so special. – Sally Kelsey, 9 Quarter Circle Ranch

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is all about habitat, access, and fair-chase opportunities and that’s why our Montana Chapter has been involved with the Gallatin Forest Partnership and the Custer Gallatin planning process from the beginning. We wanted to make sure our values were represented, and they were; we’re excited to see the new forest plan and look forward to the next steps to ensure our wild public lands and the opportunities they provide continue to be held in high regard and protected for future generations. – Chris McCarthy, Gallatin Board Member, Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

As part of the Gallatin Forest Partnership, the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association is pleased to see that the forest plan closely aligns with our agreement and strikes the right balance between conservation and recreation. We commend the Forest Service for providing certainty that favorite trails remain open to mountain bikes while also recommending wilderness and providing critical wildlife habitat protections. The final result shows how much thought went into each aspect of the plan. – Adam Oliver, Board Member, Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association

The final forest plan brings us closer to achieving a goal that Wild Montana has been working towards for decades: permanently protecting the wildest places in the Madison and Gallatin ranges. We’re pleased the Plan incorporates many of the elements of the Gallatin Forest Partnership Agreement, including historic new recommended wilderness in the Gallatin Range and Cowboy Heaven. We thank the Forest Service for its hard work, and we encourage Congress to act swiftly to pass legislation that will protect these irreplaceable wild areas once and for all. – Maddy Munson, field director, Wild Montana

Winter Wildlands Alliance is pleased the new forest plan adopts many aspects of the Gallatin Forest Partnership Agreement, including protections for Hyalite Canyon and its wild neighbor, South Cottonwood. Hyalite draws ice climbers from around the world, and provides a wide range of amazing year-round outdoor recreation opportunities. The new plan provides a good framework for sustainably managing visitor use in Hyalite, ensuring that this special place continues to provide outstanding recreation opportunities for all visitors, clean water for Bozeman, and high quality habitat for wildlife. – Hilary Eisen, policy director, Winter Wildlands Alliance

The clean water, special landscape, wildlife, and outdoor opportunities in the Gallatin Range are crucial to the success of our business and to the way of life that we in Livingston love. I’m glad the Forest Service has recognized the hard collaborative work of the Gallatin Forest Partnership in the final plan and taken real steps to find a balanced agreement that will garner support from diverse groups and individuals. I look forward to building on the forest plan to secure new Wilderness and other protections to ensure future generations benefit from the same experiences we do today. – Dale Sexton, Dan Bailey’s Outdoor Company