Popular area

The Bridger Mountains, northeast of Bozeman, are a popular recreation area for skiers, mountain bikers, hikers and climbers. The Custer Gallatin National Forest is proposing to log about 2,300 acres in the area.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

Logging projects are being proposed next to several of Bozeman’s popular play areas in the Bridger and Bangtail mountains northeast of town.

What’s more, the work may qualify for a categorical exclusion under the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, meaning the only chance for people to comment is right now. Opting for a categorical exclusion would be based on whether any comments received raised environmental concerns that the Forest Service would have to address in an environmental assessment.

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Map of proposed work area

The period for offering comments “specific to the proposed action that identify a cause-effect relationship” runs through Jan. 3.

The Bozeman Ranger District of the Custer Gallatin National Forest is proposing the project to improve forest health and reduce hazardous fuel concerns, according to an agency press release.

The projects include logging in the Bridger Mountains, north of Bridger Bowl Ski Area, next to the Crosscut Mountain Sports Center’s Nordic skiing facilities and along the road to Ross Pass. Work is also proposed at the northern end of the Bangtail Mountains, which contains a popular mountain biking route known as the Bangtail Divide Trail. Work there is proposed east of Grassy Mountain at the head of Weasel and Skunk creeks, tributaries to the Shields River.

Farther north, work is proposed around Battle Ridge Campground and near Fairy Lake. All told, the Forest Service is proposing to log 2,300 acres spread across 10,000 acres of forest land.

As with many projects in the past, the goal of the logging is multi-faceted. Due to disease and insect infestation, the work would cut down Douglas fir and other conifers, along with some broadcast burning, to improve forest health and promote aspen regeneration. Tree cutting would also lessen the threat of wildland fire along forest routes needed for evacuation if a fire should occur and near homes and buildings in what’s known as the wildland urban interface.

“Among other things, the project will also supply forest products to support local economies and industries ... ,” the agency said in a press release. “Young stands of small trees comprise 519 acres of treatment and the remaining 1,842 acres of treatment are in stands of saw timber size.”

Some temporary road building would be required to reach the agency’s logging units. All of the roads would be decommissioned within three years.

To help design the project and build consensus, the Forest Service has held meetings with community members and offered field trips to the sites in August. Members of a subcommittee of the Custer Gallatin Working Group were generally supportive of the agency’s initial proposals, said Barb Cestero, of The Wilderness Society, who is a working group member.

She said the group initially identified five areas of concern for the Forest Service to address, including: weeds and weed management during and after the project; wildlife habitat and connectivity; water quality related to Brackett Creek; concerns about some of the temporary roads damaging mountain biking trails; and working with area landowners to perform fuels reduction on private lands at the same time as the forest logging.

For more information about submitting comments or about the proposal, log on to https://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/custergallatin/landmanagement/projects, then select “North Bridgers Forest Health Project.” People can also call the Bozeman Ranger District at 406-522-2520 where Teri Seth or the acting ranger can answer questions.

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