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Draft revised land management plan and draft environmental impact statement available for public comment

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A frozen Lava Lake in wintertime. PHOTO COURTESY OF CUSTER GALLATIN NATIONAL FOREST

CUSTER GALLATIN NATIONAL FOREST

BOZEMANOn Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service released the draft revised land management plan and draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Custer Gallatin National Forest. 

The revised plan has the potential to add as many as 400 new jobs to the region and as much as $20 million in additional labor income. 

The plan will also support work with state partners, tribes, communities and stakeholders in setting priorities for investments for active landscape management, emphasizing vegetation and wildlife conservation in the right locations and with the right tools, while balancing sustainable mining, grazing, forest products and recreation industries. 

Each action alternative details the desired conditions, standards, guidelines and objectives that would provide the foundation of future management activities across the forest for the next 15 years, plus. 

Previous land management plans were developed for the Custer National Forest in 1986 and the Gallatin National Forest in 1987. Since then, the forests were administratively consolidated, and the region has experienced growth, shifts in recreation trends, and changed forest conditions. These changes made it clear that revisions to the existing plans needed to be made. 

Currently the Custer Gallatin National Forest supports roughly 5,400 jobs that contribute $232 million in annual labor income to surrounding communities, from top sectors including recreation, mining and grazing. 

Land management plans provide direction for how public lands are managed in the long-term. These plans are informed by an inclusive and transparent process that involves the communities, publics, and partners affected by the plan.

Since the planning process began in January 2016, there have been more than 80 community meetings and public webinars to shape the draft plan and draft EIS. Custer Gallatin Forest supervisor Mary Erickson says that the four action alternatives outlined in the draft plan are the product of the feedback received from those meetings, as well as the latest science and specialists’ expertise.

Written and electronic comments will be accepted for 90 days after publication of the notice of availability in the federal register. All project documents, including instructions on how to comment, can be found on the Forest Plan Revision website.

“We need specific feedback from our public and these documents are lengthy and detailed,” Erickson said, “so we aim to help everyone better understand the process, content of the plan and what changes we have made.”

This outreach will include 10 resource-specific podcasts, eight webinars, and 10 public meetings throughout the comment period.

Maps and other materials will be available for review at public meetings, and planning team members will be available to answer questions. The location and schedule of these meetings can be found on the Custer Gallatin National Forest website.

“We manage these lands on behalf of the American people, which is why it’s incredibly important for them to help us design this plan,” Erickson said. “There is no magic answer, but we’re hoping to balance people’s values on the landscape, while maintaining the long-term sustainability of our resources.”

For more information, contact Mariah Leuschen-Lonergan at (406) 587-6735.

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