Walk the Walk

The importance of citizen involvement.

Remember that favorite toy you had as a child? The one you took everywhere, slept with, snuck into your school backpack, and kept by your side through dog slobber and frisky marker incidents? Yeah, we do too. And we also remember those moments when the arms fell off and the stuffing fell out and the eyes popped off and it turned rainbow colors from one too many Kool-Aid accidents. We loved those toys, and they loved us.

As the population in southwest Montana grows to numbers never-before seen, lots of our favorite outdoor haunts are starting to feel a bit like those favorite toys from our youth—and some feel like they are being loved to death.

With all the joy and devotion to this place we call home comes the responsibility of stewardship: to tread lightly, treat the land with care, and to look ahead to the next generation, and to take steps today to preserve the land for tomorrow.

Recently, Hyalite Canyon was closed to target shooting. Many folks who have participated in spring cleanup efforts in Hyalite know why—this beautiful slice of the Gallatin Range was being treated worse than a gas-station bathroom. Trash was everywhere: discarded televisions, tables, chairs, couches, bottles, and more.

Cleanup costs were mounting in Hyalite, a destination just minutes away from the back doors of all Bozeman and Belgrade residents. Wildfire funding and other big-ticket items were also taking a healthy chunk out of the Forest Service’s budget, and the rising costs of just cleaning up people’s trash was too much for the local district. So, the agency did what it needed to do to protect this incredible resource for all of us: they shut it down.

As we head into summer in Montana, après-work mountain-bike rides, paddleboard sessions, and trail runs will be on many of our minds. So do your part. Leave your trail or campsite or river access better than you found it. Give wildlife a wide berth. And participate in YOUR national-forest planning process. The Custer-Gallatin is currently undergoing a plan-revision process, which will dictate how the forest is managed for the next two decades—so get involved. Visit fs.usda.gov/gallatin for more information.