CRAZY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL FOREST Northern Pacific Railroad Grant Deeds

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On July 2, 1864 President Abraham Lincoln, who had been a lawyer for the railroads, signed the Northern Pacific land grant - An Act granting Lands to aid in the Construction of a Railroad and Telegraph Line. The odd numbered granted sections were, “Known as 'indemnity strips,' these lands were distributed in alternating square sections that resulted in a 'checkerboard pattern' of public and private landownership. In the Crazies, this led to the transferring of more than 50,000 acres of public lands to private ownership.”

"... there was granted to the Northern Pacific Railroad Company (successor 'Railway'), its successors and assigns,...'every alternate section of public land, not mineral, designated by odd numbers..."

Montana became a State on November 8, 1889.

The “Crazy Mountains Forest Reserve” was established by Presidential Proclamation on August 10, 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt.

All of the Northern Pacific Railway private lands in Montana were sold by 1940.

In 1970, the Northern Pacific later merged with other lines to form the Burlington Northern Railroad, which in 1996 became the BNSF Railway.

On some of the NPRC deeds, registered in the County Clerk and Recorders offices, you will see public access language, similar to this one from the Crazy Mountains, 4N 10E, Section 15, "the land hereby conveyed, being subject, to an easement in the public for any public roads heretofore laid out or established, and now existing over and across any part of the premises."

These deeds with the "easement in the public" language were so strong, just one section (3N 12E, Section 3) was the foundation for the 1948 Forest Service complaint and injuction against a Crazy Mountain landowner attempting to obstruct public and Forest Service access. The Judge granted the injunction removing the locks from the gates and the "No Trespassing" signs. The landowner settled the case, providing a recorded Forest Service easement in 1954.


Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat

Public Access Storm Brewing Over the Crazy Mountains


Have you been in the Crazy Mountains?

If you have been in the Crazy Mountains...

  • perhaps you received a citation when you were on a FS Trail on their map;
  • perhaps you have been on one of these contested trail and you thankfully did not ask landowner permission or sign in and would like to add your account to the prescriptive easement history;
  • perhaps you would just like to share your story and/or some pictures of what these particular public lands and access mean to you?

If so, please contact Kathryn :


Crazy Mountain Public Access Page


Official's Contact Information below

Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, DC 20250 (202) 720-2791

Forest Service Chief, Vicki Christiansen, (202) 205-8439

Region 1, Regional Forester Leanne Marten, (406) 329-3315

Custer Gallatin National Forest Supervisor Mary Erickson, (406) 587-6949

Senator Steve Daines, (202) 224-2651

Even though Sen. Tester was not evident in the letters, please contact him as well.
Sen. Jon Tester, (202) 224-2644

1925 Crazy Mountains Map
Some trails with attempted obstruction of public access
highlighted for easier identification.
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