Southwest Montana is currently in the process of what could be a dramatic change in terms of the surrounding landscape. Within the next few years, the Custer and Gallatin national forests will be joined together under one new forest plan. This forest plan could potentially hold many new possibilities and opportunities, as well as restrictions and regulations.

Luckily for us, the forest plan is seeking input from citizens across the southeast and southwest to understand exactly what we want to see from the forest. I attended two different meetings regarding the forest plan, one in Livingston and one in Bozeman. There was a significant difference in the concerns of citizens between Livingston and Bozeman. Livingston was very concerned about rivers, scenery, fishing and hunting. Bozeman on the other hand, had many concerns about population growth and how the increase in recreation might affect the forest. A few issues brought up in the Bozeman meeting were dogs attacking other skiers in the backcountry, over use of Hyalite canyon, and how climate change was affecting the area. Some solutions to these problems were potentially restricting certain areas from allowing dogs, creating another front country area like Hyalite to help disperse recreation, and ensuring that the new plan addressed and anticipated climate change.

These meetings are important for citizens to be involved in because it will affect how the forest is planned and managed for the next few decades. There are plenty of more opportunities to attend forest planning meetings for those who are interested. There are not any official dates as of yet for this summer, but be sure to check the Custer Gallatin National Forest USDA page for upcoming dates and locations. If you are unable to attend the meetings, there are also webinars available.

Karissa Pfantz