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Forest Service Moves Forward With Two Crazy Mountain Land Swaps, Drops One

A map in the Custer Gallatin National Forest Service's South Crazy Mountains Land Exchange Environmental Assessment shows proposed land exchanges between three private land owners and the agency.

The Custer Gallatin National Forest is moving forward with two out of three proposed land exchanges on the southern side of the Crazy Mountains.

Kat Barker with the Forest Service says the South Crazy Mountains Land Exchange aims to consolidate public land and improve access in the Crazy Mountains, which are known for jagged peaks, significance to the Crow Nation and conflict over the area’s checkerboard pattern of private and public ownership.

“When we have interspersed sections of private and public, it can just be difficult to manage a landscape as a whole,” Barker said.

The agency is finalizing a plan to exchange roughly 1,900 acres of U.S. Forest Service land for nearly the same amount with Wild Eagle Mountain Ranch and Rock Creek Ranch.

Barker says the Custer Gallatin National Forest decided to hold off on a third land exchange proposal, which was included in the draft plan released last year and received a lot of pushback.

Kimberly Brown-Azzarello Flickr (CC-by-NC-2.0)
The sunset lights up the Crazy Mountains between Big Timber and Livingston on Oct. 17, 2005.

“It’s definitely something that we’re looking for in the future to consider more options there and talk to folks again and revisit it. But at this point, this decision does not address the Crazy Mountain Ranch portion,” Barker said.

The Forest Service had proposed trading two low elevation parcels of public land for three islands of high elevation land that are part of the Crazy Mountain Ranch, which is owned by the multinational cigarette and tobacco company Philip Morris.

The Crazy Mountain Ranch exchange would provide public access to two lakes, allow the agency to relocate large sections of a trail and gain a conservation easement on another; it would also open up a road for public access and another for administrative use.

Some critics said the swap with Crazy Mountain Ranch would cause the public to lose more accessible low elevation land for hunting, fishing and hiking.

Those who previously submitted public comments on the South Crazy Mountains Land Exchange have until Jan. 25 to file objections.