By Emily Wolfe Explore Big Sky Managing Editor

BOZEMAN – The Gallatin Community Collaborative is making progress – and it’s a marathon, not a sprint, says facilitator Jeff Goebel.

In late November, stakeholders interested in the longstanding land use controversy between motorized and non–motorized users in the Hyalite-Porcupine-Buffalo-Horn Wilderness Study Area met for evening workshops in Livingston, Gardiner and West Yellowstone, and a three-day workshop at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds in Bozeman. In total, more than 200 people participated in these workshops, which followed a series of meetings around the region in October.

“Each community has its own culture, is one of the things I’m learning,” Goebel said. In West and Livingston, more of the motorized users attended the meetings, he said, while Gardiner had a fairly balanced showing of user groups, and Bozeman was more weighted toward the wilderness perspective.

“Really what ended up coming out of the end of that was a realization about how important it is to get the different parties together and to be able to learn from each other. There is a real desire by the very dominant user group – the motorized group – that they wanted to learn from the other views. They wanted to hear more from the wilderness perspective.”

Goebel designed the three-stage community workshop series with a goal of establishing trust and building relationships among participants.

The participants all wrote down their ideas for the “best outcomes” for the Gallatin Range, which Goebel is posting at gallatincollaborative.org.

An exploratory committee for the GCC spent the last two years building the preliminary guidelines for a future collaborative group that will work toward a management solution for the 155,000-acre HPBH WSA.

The purposes of these meetings, Goebel said, is “to explore the change that is desired for the communities surrounding the Gallatin Range, design the operating structure of the Gallatin Community Collaborative, and develop new and more effective ways of valuing the people involved in the region.”

In October, the workshops were focused on understanding conflict – “what goes on when conflict begins,” Goebel explained, “not just in the situation with wilderness but also with conflict in general in the region.”

The November sessions focused on perceptions of power, strength and dominance.

Ultimately, Goebel said, “It’s national land, but … if local people figure out how to solve this, there’s a very good chance that will resonate with people nationally.”

In the next set of workshops, set for Jan. 9-11 in Livingston, Goebel plans to lead a more localized discussion – “not making decisions, [just] exploring possibilities.”

Congress designated the WSA in 1977 to “preserve its existing wilderness character” until a long-term decision about management and protection could be made. With the National Forest considering revisions to its management plan and no litigation pending, the committee hopes a future collaborative group will create a “broad, adaptive and durable” resolution it can present to the Gallatin National Forest and federal elected officials.

Gallatin Collaborative meetings
Thursday, Jan. 9, 1–9 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 10, 1–9 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 11, 1–9 p.m.
Best Western
 1515 W Park St, Livingston, MT
Food and refreshments will be served. RSVP at gallatincollaborative.org