The Forest Service has released a preliminary environment assessment (PEA) for a land exchange in the South Crazy Mountains. The information in the PEA makes it appear to be a good deal, but the PEA only tells half the story.

The truth is the Crazy Mountain Ranch part of the exchange is a very bad deal because the public gives up two sections (4 and 8) of prime big game habitat and an exceptional self-sustaining native cutthroat trout fishery. In return the public would get Rock and Smeller lakes and an inaccessible section containing, appropriately, Idiot Peak. While alpine lakes are desirable, their value pales in comparison to the habitat we would lose, but you would never know that by reading the PEA.

For example, the PEA says the exchange is needed to “provide habitat at Rock Lake and Smeller Lake for Yellowstone cutthroat trout.” However, the habitat at these lakes is so poor they can’t support a fishery without regular stocking. On the other hand we’d lose premium habitat with a self-sustaining Yellowstone cutthroat fishery. In fact it’s the only public land with such a fishery in the area because the upper reach is barren.

The PEA also says the lakes are needed to provide for hunting. What are you going to hunt? The area is nearly solid rock. And to gain that rock we’d lose the best big game hunting in the area.

These are only two examples of the PEA shortcomings. When you know the whole story this exchange is an obvious loser. The big game habitat and fishery in sections 4 and 8 are irreplaceable and completely accessible to the public. Tell Forest Service to keep sections 4 and 8 in public hands.

Rob Gregoire

Bozeman