Public Land Hunters Object to Land Swap in Montana’s Crazy Mountains

A local conservation group and the U.S. Forest Service have proposed a land exchange that would put an end to decades of confusion over where the public can access the Custer-Gallatin National Forest in Montana’s Crazy Mountains. If the deal goes through, a new 22-mile public trail will wind through the eastern side of the Crazies, about 40 miles northeast of Bozeman.

The issue? Hunters say they will lose access to the public lowlands—and the elk that reside there—on the east side of the range. Now that the U.S. Forest Service is calling for public comment, which is open through Dec. 23, hunters are making their opinions known.

The swap was proposed by the Crazy Mountain Access Project, a group of ranchers, environmentalists, Bozeman and Livingston business owners, a representative of the Crow tribe, and members of the Yellowstone Club. The spirit of the deal is meant to secure public access to a checkerboarded landscape. Currently, access to the east side of the Crazy Mountains relies on prescriptive easement trails that cross private property in some places, which landowners have been obstructing and posting “No Trespassing” signs on for decades. The swap would consolidate the currently fractured public and private parcels through a series of land trades between six area landowners, the Yellowstone Club, and the Forest Service. It would then replace the historic East Trunk and Sweet Grass trails with a new 22-mile trail that would run through the consolidated public area. This would ultimately create a 40-mile loop trail through the Crazies’ impressive peaks.

Read more from Outdoor Life here...

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