CUSTER GALLATIN NATIONAL FOREST
BOZEMAN – The Bozeman Ranger District, Custer Gallatin National Forest and the Schlueter family have recently completed and finalized a new easement and road segment on the West Fork Loop Road, also known as Forest Road 166B, replacing a historic easement in the North Fork drainage across private land.
Providing access to U.S. Forest Service lands, the area is popular for non-motorized recreational activities and serves as a groomed ski trail for a portion of the Lone Mountain Ranch trail system. Several alternatives were explored and this outcome is a result of years of negotiation between the Forest Service and Stan Schlueter.
“We are pleased to have a positive outcome that continues public access in a manner similar to what forest users have come to know,” said USFS Bozeman District Ranger Lisa Stoeffler. “We understand that access to public land is a precious and valuable resource for residents and visitors of this area.”
“We appreciate the Forest Service working in good faith to negotiate this new right-of-way,” Schlueter said. “It’s important for people to understand that this road runs entirely across private land and the adjacent land is private. This new public route was privately financed and not paid for with taxpayer dollars.”
The road is available for winter ski use immediately through Lone Mountain Ranch’s groomed trail system, and will be available as an open motorized road during the snow-free season. Forest Road 166B provides access to the North Fork Trailhead for non-motorized recreation opportunities including mountain biking, hiking, running and accessing National Forest lands in the Spanish Peaks, Lee Metcalf Wilderness, Bear Basin and multiple connecting trails.
The Schlueter family financed the construction of the replacement road section, and the Forest Service split the costs of finalizing the easement documents.
Much of this land was historically a checkerboard of National Forest and private timberlands. Roads and easements were shared between the landowners in order to provide access through the different ownership patterns. When the lands were consolidated, the Forest Service reserved rights on selected roads to provide necessary public and administrative access to the National Forest.