Recently, 75 volunteers came to Hyalite Canyon to do stewardship work that helps Hyalite be the great place it is. Our community is fortunate to have “public landowners” like these, and groups like the Friends of Hyalite that host cleanup days for folks to take ownership of their public lands.

But there wouldn’t be anything in Hyalite worth volunteering for if it wasn’t for the staff of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest’s Bozeman Ranger District and the work they do every day. And unless Congress increases Forest Service funding, we shouldn't expect to continue benefiting from their hard work, or have such hard-working people around to do it, much longer.

These public employees have a tough job. They cover a huge area with a small staff, meet the diverse demands of a diverse (and growing) population, and account for all the vagaries of humans and nature, all with perennial questions about funding and little control over next year’s budget. Imagine how such challenges, responsibilities, and uncertainties weigh on the individuals fulfilling this civil service, people with families and mortgages and responsibilities and uncertainties of their own.

Even so, there’s no whining or “can’t-do” attitudes in the Bozeman Ranger District, at least not in public. They do excellent work despite the challenges, and the world-class quality of places like Hyalite shows it. But we shouldn’t take such quality landscapes and professionals for granted.

We need to support our Forest Service employees, and not just by showing up for cleanup days, but by demanding Congress allocate adequate funding for them to be fully staffed and accomplish the work we expect of them. And when we see them on the trail, we should also smile, wave, and thank the Bozeman Ranger District employees in particular. Our community is fortunate to have them.

Patrick Cross