FS 166B Road/ West Fork Loop Road / Old Toby Road, Big Sky – Gallatin County

Resolution Accomplished

In 2000, Stan Schlueter, from Texas, purchased 497 acres in Big Sky. The Schlueters then built their 8037 sq. ft. Big Sky home, partially on the Forest Service 166B road (West Fork Loop Road, also called Old Toby Road for a portion), which has a 66 foot easement. FS 166B Road, with motorized access, also connected to FS 166D, which enters the Forest Service public lands. FS 166B provides access to the North Fork Trailhead for nonmotorized recreation opportunities including mountain biking, hiking, running and accessing public lands to the Spanish Peaks, Lee Metcalf Wilderness, Bear Basin (#16) and multiple connecting trails.

The 8000 + ft. log home was constructed in Canada, then deconstructed, loaded onto 18-wheelers and trucked to Big Sky. A crew of 5 to 6 men erected the home in a couple of weeks. Source.

When the Forest Service saw the encroachment, this began a long running dispute with the landowners, which involved proposals and counter proposals, including political pressure from Schlueter’s home state of Texas.

In August 2013, when PLWA member Kathryn QannaYahu read a news article on the dispute, she physically documented the site, taking photos, as well as acquired the easements from the Gallatin County Courthouse, which stated there was a 66′ wide perpetual public easement for FS 166B and 166D roads. She then networked the images and easement to the public to fight the proposed land exchange, which would reward the out of state landowner’s encroachment and remove motorized vehicle access to the boundary of the Forest Service land. 60% of the public comments submitted focused on the landowner encroachment.

On September 19, 2013, the USFS Bozeman District Ranger issued a statement that they were suspending their land exchange/trail proposal, instead working with the landowner to resolve the road encroachment.

In January 2015, the Forest Service announced that the Schlueters would build a new road, which they financed, around the encroachment to restore public access to that portion of FS 166B. “We are pleased to have a positive outcome that continues public access in a manner similar to what forest users have come to know,” said Lisa Stoeffler, Bozeman District ranger, in a press release. “We understand that access to public land is a precious and valuable resource for residents and visitors of this area.”

FS 166B Road, Big Sky
Public Land/Water Access Association Inc. or PLWA,
is a citizen group organized and operated under the Montana nonprofit corporation act.
The Internal Revenue Service has made a determination that PLWA qualifies as a tax- exempt
organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and that it is a public charity.

Articles and Information on this site represent the opinion of the writer and are not intended as legal advice.
Legal counsel may be needed in dealing with specific access situations and issues.