Wildland Development Concepts Wildland Development









Actors Involved in Human Settlement in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem






The National Park Service (Department of the Interior) was established in 1916 to manage national parks and monuments.  Required by the Organic Act to "conserve the scenery and natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."  If development occurs inside the Parks, for housing, restrooms or roads, Environmental Assessments (EA) must be done and publicly reviewed before the work may occur.  Yellowstone National Park also has a Park employee responsible for dealing with “external threats” to the Park, which would include urban development, but also mining, timber, or recreation that impacts the Park or the wildlife therein.  The Grand Teton National Park as well.


USDA Forest Service web site banner

Forest Service (Department of Agriculture): operates the national forests under several multiple-use policies, which are to be administered for outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed and wildlife and fish purposes.  Hard-rock mining and mineral leasing all occur on national forest lands.

Regarding urban developments, the Forest Service takes part in land ownership exchanges. These are usually done to consolidate Forest Service Lands, such as the Gallatin I and Galatin II land exchanges on the Gallatin National Forest.  However, some land exchanges are more controversial such as the one currently raging with the Grand Targhee Resort (see this group below for an article on the controversy).

Explaining the difference between the National Park Service and the Forest Service.

Find National Forests by State.  Surrounding Yellowstone are: (MT) Gallatin, Beaverhead, and Custer; (ID) Targhee and Caribou; (WY) Shoshone and Bridger-Teton.


U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service logo

The Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of the Interior): est. in 1871, and follows the 1956 Fish and Wildlife Act, and the National Wildlife Refuge Systems Administration of 1966.  They are the lead in the Endangered Species Act, and manage wildlife refuges. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's mission is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. This group is not directly relevant to urban development, as their jurisdiction does not entail local decisions of land use, however, the local cities and counties must comply with ESA regulations if an animal or plant is federally listed.  This may prevent development if a T&E species becomes known in the area of a development site of any kind.

Refuges in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem:  (MT) Red Rocks Lake Wildlife Refuge, (ID) Grays Lake Wildlife Refuge, and (WY) National Elk Refuge

Partners of the FWS Mountain-Prairie Region (8 states including MT and WY).


Welcome to the BLM Web Page

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) (Department of the Interior): est. in 1946 and guided by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976.  It is the mission of the Bureau of Land Management to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.  They are involved in land ownership records, mineral and grazing permits, land-use planning and assessment, recreation, public health and safety, and more.  Regarding urban development, they acquire easements or donations for conservation, road access, trails and improvements.  But they do land exchanges, and occasionally sell land as well.


USACE Logo which links to USACE Home Page

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:  They are currently in heated debates with residents of Montana over flooding on the Yellowstone River.  People are riprapping their banks, and the Army Corps is telling them to take them out (after the Army Corps already approved them).  There are a lot of property issues involved with letting a river naturally flood – some people lose land, others gain. 


Discovering Montana

Official State of Montana Website: You can access economic, housing, and census information here.  Also, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks manage game (hunting, fishing, trapping) and nongame fish and wildlife, and recreation opportunities. They have the "Partners for Wildlife" program as a way that Montana's landowners can improve their private land resources by working together to ensure that there will be fish and wildlife to enjoy in the future.  It is about conservation easements: there are state, federal, and private easement info at this site.


Official State of Wyoming Website: among economic and other information, they discuss Governor Jim Geringer’s Open Space conservation plan.  The Governor hosted a conference on conserving open lands and published a guide to help landowners and government officials who wish to voluntarily engage in these conservation methods.  Methods for landowners include conservation easements, purchase or lease of development rights, and limited development.  Methods for government officials include zoning, impact fees, and subdivision regulations.  See the policy section or their website for more detailed information.


Access Idaho

Official State of Idaho website contains every kind of information about the state, including about natural resources.  One example of their efforts to develop management plans to contain sprawl while encourage healthy town development, while conserving natural and cultural resources in the Sawtooth Scenic Byway Corridor Management Plan.



Park County, WY: general information, businesses, and recreation.

Teton County WY: general information, businesses, and recreation.


Park County and Gallatin County MT: county statistical reports on population, education, jobs, and agriculture.  All Montana counties are listed from that website.

Gallatin, MT: news story about approving a huge subdivision near Belgrade from High Country Independent Press.

Teton County ID: no working website yet.  See Access Idaho county index list for general information about Idaho Counties.

Fremont County ID:  This rural county's economy is based mostly on agriculture and recreation or tourism. The population of Fremont County is about 11,594, according to the 1996 Census. The county occupies 1,877 square miles or about 1,201,300 acres. Public lands predominate. Only 31.9 percent (599 square miles) of the county's land is in private ownership. About 821 square miles (43.7 percent of the total area) in the northern and eastern portions of the county are in the Targhee National Forest. Another 220 square miles (11.8 percent of the total area), mostly in the western part of the county, is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. The state of Idaho manages about 175 square miles in parcels scattered throughout the county.  See below, the Grand Targhee Resort has a controversial land swap deal with the Forest Service.  Residents do not want the Forest Service lands being developed into a ski resort.




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There are 3 cities within 5 miles of a Park entrance, and 13 more within 200 miles.  These communities are dependent to a large extent on natural resource activities such as tourism, hunting and fishing, and natural resource extraction for their economy.  Gardiner Montana is located at the North entrance to the Park, which is the only year-round entrance to Yellowstone.



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Grand Targhee Resort: current development issue over acquiring FS lands to develop their ski resort.  From the Article on the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) website:  Targhee National Forest intends to give the Grand Targhee Resort public land at the base of the popular Grand Targhee ski hill--land worth tens of millions of dollars--for a paltry $13,820 per acre, according to a draft planning document recently released for public review. The Forest Service's preferred alternative, as outlined in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), would trade up to 195 acres at the ski area for some 385 acres at Squirrel Meadows.”   The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on the FS-Resort land swap. 

The Church Universal and Triumphant: The CUT group arrived in Montana in 1986, and purchased tens of thousands of acres for a secluded retreat for thousands of people. From the CUT website: “The international headquarters moved in 1986 to a 28,000-acre Royal Teton Ranch just north of Yellowstone Park in Montana. In addition to its publishing work and ongoing religious activities, the church is actively involved in organic farming, ranching, and in building a self-sufficient spiritual community.”  Elizabeth Clare Prophet, the leader of the group, brought her followers to this wildland to await the coming of the apocalypse.  The sect segregated themselves from the rest of the surrounding landowners, built underground shelters and stockpiled them with food and an arsenal of weapons.  They build a small town on their property, with farms and ranches, and also obtained a license for geothermal drilling.  Since their lands were some of the most important over-wintering bison and elk lands outside of the park to the North, Montana Game biologists routinely slaughtered hundreds of bison as they trespassed onto CUT lands to prevent interactions with cattle.  Also, there was an environmental spill on their property as a result of their development of the shelters that polluted groundwater.  Needless to say, they were not liked very much by the nearby townspeople, and vandalism and other random acts of violence were common.  However, when the end-of-the-world that Prophet predicted did not come to pass, and she fell ill, the sect started to crumble.  Her children had left, as did others, complaining of brainwashing.  Her husband had divorced her, and the Church was in serious financial trouble.  A new leader took over in 1991 with a new goal: to live for the future.  In September of 1999, they sold 7,800 acres of bison wintering lands to the Forest Service, they never developed the large town they had planned, and they started mingling with the local townsfolk.    An article on Land Easement of CUT property, from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.


South Dakota landowner with created wetland

Individual ranchers and farmers:  A farmer or rancher has no retirement pension. Any long-term security lies solely in the equity of the operation and the ability to sell or transfer agricultural lands. Historically, that has meant passing the property to the next generation. Now, it may mean conservation easements or subdivisions. In any case, they are difficult, personal and complex decisions.  Many are faced with selling their property due to high property taxes, no heir to take over a farm, or illness that changes their ability to farm or ranch.  However, landowners also are key to many wildlife wintering ranges, and recreational activities.  Fishing, hunting, snowmobiling and other activities occur on private property, or landowners allow access through their lands to forest service or park lands.  In many states, the government wants to help these landowners with these difficult decisions, so they encourage easements and other voluntary conservation methods whenever possible.  See state listings for such activities.

Rushmore Homes: real estate developer in Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. 

Big Sky Resort Real Estate and Development.

Buffalo Ranch Development (Park County, MT):  Article on the debate over the development of the new community.




Montana Land Reliance

Montana Land Reliance: Founded 1978.  As a statewide land trust the Montana Land Reliance (MLR) is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of ecologically unique private land including agricultural land, watersheds, riparian areas, wetlands and scenic open spaces. A growing portfolio of conservation easements protect and conserve over 405,000 acres of private land throughout Montana.  From their website:  “MLR has focused on the conservation of private lands in the Montana portion of the GYE. Our efforts have provided lasting protection for 150,297 total acres; 9,210 of these acres were protected in 2000.”


Greater Yellowstone Coalition: "People working to protect America’s first national park and the lands that surround it." This website gives information and articles on many topics, including urban sprawl, recreation, and oil and gas development.

Other organizations: Jackson Hole Land Trust, Nature Conservancy, and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation use Conservation Easements to preserve lands.  The Sonoran Institute out of AZ works to preserve working ranches.



The University of Wyoming is taking part in several areas of land use research and management.  Their Spatial Data and Visualization Center, in partnership with Wyoming Open Lands, is developing a unique application of GIS that is being used in private landowner collaborations. This practical and basic use of GIS allows landowners to map their various interests in protection of open space on their own land, as well as on neighbors' lands within their subdivision or watershed. Through this mapping process, private landowners are allowed to confidentially identify their interests and concerns. The landowners can then see, through layering all of the mapped landowner input, the potential for cooperative agreements with physical reference to their property.

A Community Toolbox prepared by the Institute for Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming, to provide communities with knowledge and resources to support the development of strategic plans for managing sustainable growth and development.

Montana State University is doing interdisciplinary research studying songbirds and urban development (Jay Rotella and Andrew Hansen) and causes and consequences of land cover change in the GYE.



Taking place inside and outside the park are a variety of activities such as horseback riding, backpacking, snowmobiling, hunting and fishing, car touring, wildlife watching, photographing and painting, and many others.