July 30, 2019
Public Access Improved to Contentious Crazy Mountains
MISSOULA, Mont.—Those who enjoy hunting, hiking and other forms of recreation will soon have better access to Montana’s Crazy Mountains thanks to a joint effort by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, U.S. Forest Service, Crazy Mountain Stockgrowers Association and other partners.
The organizations are part of the Crazy Mountain Working Group which is made up of landowners, nongovernmental groups, agencies and other members working together over several years to try to resolve long-standing disputes and facilitate public access.
Work is scheduled to begin this summer to construct a nearly 3-mile long segment of a planned 12-mile trail to improve access for non-motorized travel including foot, stock and bicycle traffic on the west side of the Crazy Mountains.
The area has been subject to long-term, divisive access disputes including a pending lawsuit.
“Securing access in and around the Crazies has been complicated and challenging for a long, long time,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “We are grateful for landowners, agency partners and others who are working collaboratively to make this new access venture possible.”
When completed, the final trail known as the Porcupine-Ibex Trail will connect two Forest Service rental cabins located at existing legal trailheads. Specifically, the first segment of the project will connect the Porcupine Cabin Trailhead to the North Fork Elk Creek Trail. The majority of the work takes place on public land with right-of-way easements granted by private landowners where needed.
The Crazy Mountains are approximately 100 miles north of Yellowstone Park. They rise above the grassland plains to greater than 11,000 feet in elevation in south-central Montana. The island mountain range includes land managed by the Gallatin and Lewis and Clark National Forests checkerboarded with privately-owned land but is completely surrounded by private land making public access extremely difficult.
“Sitting down with stakeholders of differing interests and respectfully discussing challenging issues to find longstanding, reasonable solutions strengthens our communities. This is what the Crazy Mountain Working Group is cultivating,” said Stacy Donald, Crazy Mountain Stockgrowers Association vice president and a member of the Crazy Mountain Working Group.
“RMEF remains committed to working with all parties in finding solutions to complex on-the-ground access issues. Creating and improving public access lies at the heart of our mission,” added Henning.