Custer Gallatin National Forest Management Plan

Forest Management Plan for the Pryors
July 2017

Custer Gallatin National Forest (CGNF) is in the process of revising the Forest Management Plan for the entire Forest. This includes the Pryor Mountains. The “current” Management Plan for the Pryors is seriously out of date having been completed in 1986. A lot has changed in 30 years! The new Management Plan will guide all future management decisions in the Pryors for many years. So this rather wonky and bureaucratic process is extremely important for the future of the Pryors.

In the 1986 Management Plan for the Pryors, protection of natural and cultural resources were a clearly secondary consideration at best. The Plan provided for and encouraged commercial activity like timber harvest and intensive cattle grazing. (The Pryors Coalition does not oppose cattle grazing in balance with other values of the land.) Public recreational activity in the Pryors was hardly mentioned in the 1986 Plan. This was:

• before drastic and increasing OHV/ATV use in the Pryors

• before there was much conflict between motorized and non-motorized recreation

• before there was enough motorized use to significantly effect wildlife and other ecological, natural and cultural resources.

A guiding principal for the Pryors Coalition is that the first goal of management should be to preserve and restore the natural and cultural resources of this fragile and unique landscape. A secondary goal is to provide a balance of recreational opportunities. But all forms of recreation must be managed within the limits that the landscape can sustain. The Pryor Mountain part of the new Forest Management Plan must provide guidance for future management decisions and actions consistent with these principals.

A key section of the Management Plan is the “Desired Future Conditions” for the area. The rest of the Management Plan should provide management direction to achieve and maintain those Desired Future Conditions (DFCs).

We have drafted an updated one-page summary of our Vision and Desired Future Conditions for the Pryors. We encourage the Forest Service to carefully consider this statement when drafting the DFCs for the new Management Plan. Read our statement here..

The Pryors Coalition and associated organizations have sent three substantive letters discussing changes we believe are necessary in the new Plan. These letters can be seen here:

Pryors Coalition letter to CGNF: April 13, 2017. In this letter the Coalition and several allied organizations present our proposals for Recommended Wilderness Areas in the Pryors.

Pryors Coalition letter to CGNF: January 5, 2017.
In this letter we respond to CGNF’s Draft Assessment of Existing Conditions Reports and their Draft Need to Change the Management Plan.

Pryors Coalition letter to CGNF: April 5, 2016.
In this letter we discuss ways the new Management Plan needs to differ from the 1986 Plan based on a comparison of:

• the 1986 Management Plan (parts that relate to the Pryors),

• the 2012 Planning Rule which describes Forest Service requirements for Plan revision,

• what we believe will be important to the public over the next 30 years.

Development of the new Management Plan will take several years. There will be opportunities for the Public to influence the new Plan. These opportunities include public meetings with CGNF Planners, and requests for public comment letters on various stages of the Planning process.

Information on the Forest Service planning schedule, their progress toward the new Plan, and opportunities for public comment can be found here.

Management of the public land in the Pryors is divided (fractured) among three federal agencies: Custer Gallatin National Forest (CGNF), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (BCNRA). But the Pryors are a single landscape including the north part of the Pryors on the Crow Reservation. Management of the Pryors should be holistic. The management agencies should have a unified vision of the Pryors and manage the Pryors as a single landscape. This should be clear in the new Management Plan.

CGNF currently has designated an abundance of motorized routes in the Pryors. But current management is deficient in providing protection for the ecological diversity, secure wildlife habitat, and opportunities for quiet recreation. In the new Management Plan CGNF has the opportunity to designate several motor-free areas to meet these needs.