The Gallatin National Forest is proposing to exchange land it owns northeast of Gardiner for two old mining claims inside the nearby Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.
The agency has prepared a 60-page environmental assessment examining the exchange that is open to public review and comment.
The Forest Service owns 22.48 acres of land next to William and Peggy Hoppe and along Eagle Creek. The Hoppes have been leasing the federal land for pasture. Under the proposed agreement, the Hoppes would trade their 33.23-acre mining claims for the parcel adjacent to their land.
The claims — the Vanity Fair and Empire State lodes — haven’t been worked since the 1930s. The Forest Service’s Pine Creek Trail passes through the steep, forested property that’s about 3 miles east of the old gold mining town of Jardine.
The estimated market value of the federal lands has been appraised at $171,000 while the Hoppes’ property was appraised at $169,000. To even the exchange, the Hoppes would pay the federal government $2,000.
The Gallatin National Forest has placed several restrictions on the property it is exchanging, including how many homes could be built on the parcel if it is subdivided and protections for the riparian area along the stream.
The purpose of the exchange is to eliminate the private wilderness inholding and also to remedy the trail’s longstanding encroachment on private property.
Although the Forest Service’s parcel abuts other forest lands, the agency justified its exchange by saying the land has reduced public land characteristics and will remove the need for the Hoppes to continue leasing the parcel.
The Forest Service is requesting comments on its environmental assessment. The EA is available on the agency’s website at: www.fs.usda.gov/gallatin. To request a paper copy, contact the Gardiner Ranger District, P.O. Box 5, Gardiner, MT 59030, or by phone at 406-848-7375, extension 24.
Public comments may be submitted in writing, orally, or through electronic means, and must be received by midnight on May 3. Comments can be sent to the same address to the attention of Mary Maj, Gardiner District Ranger.