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Bridger Mountains logging project set to launch
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Bridger Mountains logging project set to launch

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Burned trees scar the foothills of the Bridger Mountains as aspen leaves turn golden last fall. The scar is from the Bridger Foothills fire. Logging will begin north of the fire line this summer with an eye to lessening the chances of such a fire in the future.

A year after the Bridger Foothills fire burned 8,200 acres — about 13 square miles — and torched 68 structures, the Bozeman Ranger District is moving ahead with a nearby logging project aimed in part at preventing a similar incident.

The North Bridgers Forest Health Project will soon begin with road maintenance, temporary road construction and then proceed to logging. The work will take place 13 miles northeast of Bozeman, just north of the Bridger Bowl Ski Area.

The forested canyon is dotted with homes, known in Forest Service jargon as the wildland urban interface or WUI (pronounced wooeee). Such areas are the most difficult to defend during wildland fires because the homes are often surrounded by forest. Much of the logging will be conducted within a half-mile to a mile of private land.

The first phase of the five-year project will continue into January 2022.

“The project is an important collaborative forest health project, between the Custer Gallatin National Forest and the Custer Gallatin Working Group,” said Corey Lewellen, Bozeman District Ranger, in a statement. “We’re looking forward to starting implementation of the project, which protects wildlife, recreational opportunities, and other important resources within the project area. It also addresses needs of national, regional and forest direction including insect and disease treatment as part of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act.”

A Decision Memo for the project was signed in 2018 and is available online at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=48493. In 2019 environmental groups sued unsuccessfully to halt the project on grounds that a more thorough environmental review was necessary, but they did manage to delay its implementation.

The projects include logging north of Bridger Bowl, 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 10,200 acres of forest land.

Visitors should expect to see increased traffic, construction, and logging equipment in the area, including log hauling on popular roads like Fairy Lake and South Brackett Creek. Any closures will be posted in advance.

By logging the area the Forest Service is trying to reduce the susceptibility of vegetation to insect and disease; minimize tree mortality contributing to fuel loading; decrease fuel build-up that can lead to high intensity wildfire; and supply forest products to support local economies and industries, the agency said.

To remain informed on the progress of the project, follow the Custer Gallatin National Forest on Facebook. For questions or additional information, call the Bozeman Ranger District at 406-522-2520.

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