The Forest Service has listed four areas in Montana as high priority for public access — two in the Custer Gallatin National Forest and one each in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Flathead forests.
The areas were listed as the agency has requested public assistance to help identify national forest and grassland areas where the Forest Service can provide greater access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational opportunities.
In the Bozeman Ranger District 1,920 acres are listed on the north end of the Bridger Mountains. In the Yellowstone Ranger District 1,600 acres between Big Timber and Sweet Grass creeks in the Crazy Mountains has been identified.
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All together the agency's draft list for the United States contains about 90,000 acres of Forest Service land where hunters, anglers, and other recreationists are allowed but have limited or no legal access to the areas. The outreach is tied to agency efforts to implement the John D. Dingell, Jr., Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 that mandates federal land management agencies work to evaluate how to expand access to public lands.
The law includes steps agencies must take on how federal acres that are now essentially inaccessible may be opened to the public. The collective work of the Forest Service and interested citizens will help the agency decide how to reasonably provide access through such measures as easements, rights-of-way, or fee title from a willing landowner.
The Forest Service is seeking nominations that describe federal lands not on the list. The lands identified must be managed by the Forest Service, be a minimum of 640 contiguous acres, and be unreachable by foot, horseback, motorized vehicle or nonmotorized vehicle because there is no public access over non-Forest Service land, or the access is significantly restricted.
The public nomination period to identify parcels for inclusion on the agency’s priority list will close on March 12. A final priority list will be published soon after and will be updated at least every two years until 2029.
To nominate a parcel of Forest Service land for consideration, email SM.FS.firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Lands and Realty Management, ATTN: Access Nominations, USDA Forest Service, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20250-1111. Nominations must include the location of the land or parcel, total acreage affected (if known), and a narrative describing the lack of access.
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