Montana Public Radio

public land

Montana’s state parks are experiencing a surge of visitors with record turnout in the first quarter of 2021.

Most of Montana's state parks are experiencing an influx of visitors as warmer weather settles in and COVID-19 restrictions ease. The Montana State Parks department has recorded nearly 400,000 visitors from January to March this year. That’s a 20% increase from the same period last year and roughly 78% higher than the same period in 2019, when pandemic lockdowns didn’t affect annual visitation.

Cars travel on Glacier National Park's Going-To-The-Sun Road, August 02, 2019.
Glacier National Park (PD)

Glacier National Park is considering a ticketed reservation system for visitors wanting to use Going-To-The-Sun-Road on the park’s west side. Park officials held a virtual meeting Thursday to discuss the idea.

Funding from the Great American Outdoors Act will help fix the The Double Arrow lookout on the Lolo National Forest near Seeley Lake, which is on the National Historic Register. It had been slated for closure due to critical maintenance issues.
Lolo National Forest

Work to address critical deferred maintenance projects through the Great American Outdoors Act will soon begin on national forests in Montana.

Some conservation experts describe the Great American Outdoors Act as one of the most significant pieces of public lands legislation in a generation.


Federal agencies are figuring out how to treat masks on public land in the wake of Gov. Greg Gianforte’s repeal of Montana’s statewide mask mandate.

President Biden issued a national mandate for masks on federal lands and in federal buildings on January 20. Just over three weeks later, Gov. Gianforte lifted Montana’s mask mandate — although masks are still required in some counties and cities, and in state-owned buildings. 

Kootenai National Forest sign.
Josh Burnham

On Wednesday, the Kootenai National Forest signaled that it's moving forward on a sprawling and controversial logging project.

The U.S. Forest Service says the roughly 100,000-acre Black Ram Project would reduce wildfire risk in the wildland-urban interface near Troy, Montana, while encouraging fire’s natural role in the ecosystem and restoring historic forest conditions.

The Custer Gallatin National Forest is moving forward with two out of three proposed land exchanges on the southern side of the Crazy Mountains.

Kat Barker with the Forest Service says the South Crazy Mountains Land Exchange aims to consolidate public land and improve access in the Crazy Mountains, which are known for jagged peaks, significance to the Crow Nation and conflict over the area’s checkerboard pattern of private and public ownership.

Public access to roughly 7,200 acres of private timberland in northwest Montana is now permanently protected. State regulators Thursday approved purchasing an easement on the land for $4.5 million.

Montana Trust Land Revenue Dips From Pandemic, Weather

Nov 18, 2020

Revenue from Montana’s trust lands, which support public K through 12 schools, public buildings and the Montana Veterans Home, is taking a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shawn Thomas with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) says agriculture and grazing leases accounted for nearly half of the revenue generated by state trust lands for the fiscal year that ended in June.

Revenue from grazing leases held steady but revenue from agriculture leases dropped by $2 million.

As the Custer Gallatin National Forest finalizes a plan that will guide management decisions for the next 15 to 30 years, a coalition of conservation and outdoor user groups is making one last push for that plan to add additional protection to an area called Cowboy Heaven.

Northeast of Ennis, a local outfitter leads several people on horseback up a steep, rocky trail. They pass through sagebrush country, which fades into forests speckled with snowberries and 300 year old Douglas firs.

National parks, jagged peaks, sprawling forests; Montana is home to more than 30 million acres of public land. Our shared lands are beloved by many Montanans, and a huge draw for tourists from around the world. But just because those lands exist doesn’t mean people can actually get to them. When public land and private property collide, real conflicts over access arise. And that’s a sticking point in this year’s race for governor.

Montana Public Radio’s Charles Bolte explores what candidates are really talking about when they say they’re “for access,” and if that political rhetoric matches up with the issues Montanans are actually facing.

Listen now on Shared State Episode 05: The Grandeur Of Our Mountains And The Vastness Of Our Rolling Plains