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Where's the Science and FS NEPA Process for the Crazy Mountains?

Back in 2016, the Custer Gallatin National Forest began a proper NEPA process for a road relocation off of private property to Forest Service lands, to provide better access for the public and improve road location. The road had motorized access, which had been blocked off by a private landowner with an outfitter. The FS conducted their Environmental Assessment (EA), then filed their Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), all according to NEPA process. An important note: This trail relocation project was for 0.28 miles (1,500 feet). Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat (EMWH) supported and advocated for the Middle Fork Sixteen Mile road relocation.

In this Tale of Two Trails, the same Forest Service is again proposing a trail relocation off of private land onto public in the Crazy Mountains, and again, the landowner has been blocking off public access, after the creation of a hunt club. But some things are significantly different with this proposal.

This proposal, initiated by the landowner, would obliterate the northern portion of a 100+ year old historic public trail, FS Trail #267, which the FS has stated they have an easement of interest in – a prescriptive easement. Trail #267 is on the 1925 Absaroka National Forest map. The landowners bought the land in the '50s with the public trail on it. The current northern Porcupine Lowline Trail #267 segment is about 6 miles, with elevations between 6400-7000 feet. The proposed new trail will be over 8 miles, especially when you factor in all the steep up and down elevations, elevations between 6,500-8,000 feet. This proposal would cross 4 creeks: Porcupine, N. Fork of Elk Creek, Daisy Dean and Horse Creek. Bridges and stock bridges are probably going to be needed. The area also involves the “Sensitive Species” wolverine and Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout with genetically pure strains, as well as ungulate habitat security questions.

Yet, the CGNF Deputy Supervisor and project lead for the trail relocation, Chad Benson, stated they had determined this project qualified as a “Categorical Exclusion,” removing the EA and EIS process. Why has the CGNF ignored this proper NEPA process for this 8+ miles proposed trail relocation, with up and down steep, high elevation terrain; that crosses 4 creeks; has wolverines and genetically pure Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout?

As a conservation hunter and angler, I believe the public needs the science and other agency/specialist input. We need the proper public FS NEPA process to be conducted.

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As a result of the lack of science, process, and public access easement information, Friends of the Crazy Mountains (FOCM) and Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat (EMWH) set up a transparent, public informational meeting, with factual presentations, materials and maps.

Please join us for The Crazy Mountain March Public Meeting on March 13, 6-8 p.m., Yellowstone Pioneer Lodge, Yellowstone Conference Room, 1515 West Park Street, Livingston, Montana. Event contact: Kathryn, 406-579-7748. For more information: www.emwh.org.

Kathryn QannaYahu, a conservation hunter and angler in Helena, is the founder of Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat.

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