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Forest Plan Protects Part of Crazy Mountains; More Action Urged

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A U.S. Forest Service plan to be finalized next year would create the 28,000-acre Crazy Mountains Backcountry Area. (Greg Goebel/Flickr)
A U.S. Forest Service plan to be finalized next year would create the 28,000-acre Crazy Mountains Backcountry Area. (Greg Goebel/Flickr)
December 4, 2020

HELENA, Mont. -- Tribal advocacy helped push the U.S. Forest Service to protect parts of Montana's Crazy Mountains, and tribal members and conservation groups believe the agency should go even further.

The Custer Gallatin National Forest plan, likely to be released in early 2021, includes wilderness protections for a small portion of the Crazies, a sacred mountain range for the Crow Tribe. Shane Doyle of the tribe said he and fellow Crow see the Crazies as a place to be cherished and respected.

"The cultural value of the range puts it into a historical context that all Montanans -- and, really, people all over the world -- will be allowed to appreciate in a way that really celebrates the significance of that range," he said.

Doyle said he is pleased with the plan overall, but he's submitted an objection on behalf of the Crow Tribe Executive Branch, which the Forest Service currently is evaluating alongside other objections.

Emily Cleveland, Montana Wilderness Association field director, said tribal advocacy was key for the protections these mountains are receiving. They're considered an area of tribal importance, but she said the plan could better capture what makes the range culturally significant.

"When it's really vague and just says 'the Crazies are important culturally to the Crow Tribe,' that doesn't provide a lot of context for managers on how to make sure that that cultural significance is maintained," she said.

Cleveland would like to see the plan prohibit motorized and mechanized recreation, such as mountain biking, in the proposed Crazy Mountains Backcountry Area, which would be about 28,000 acres. Under its current management, the area doesn't allow motorized or mechanized use.

Disclosure: Montana Wilderness Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Endangered Species & Wildlife, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT