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Custer Gallatin National Forest and NRCS implement partnership award for forest health

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The Gallatin Valley Forest Resiliency and Watershed Health project will improve forest health and reduce risk of wildfire, maintain high-quality water supply, and increase forest health and resiliency in the Bozeman Creek and Hyalite Creek municipal watersheds and the Bridger and Bangtail mountains. PHOTO BY BJPHOTOGRAPHS/ADOBE STOCK

CUSTER GALLATIN NATIONAL FOREST

BOZEMAN — The Custer Gallatin National Forest and Natural Resource Conservation Service have been awarded the USDA’s Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership Award for the Gallatin Valley Forest Resiliency and Watershed Health project. The award was recently announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Through the award funding the Forest Service and NRCS are collaborating to protect communities from wildfires and restore forest ecosystems on public and private lands.

The project will improve forest health and reduce risk of wildfire, maintain high-quality water supply and increase forest health and resiliency in the Bozeman Creek and Hyalite Creek municipal watersheds and the Bridger and Bangtail mountains. This area of the wildland urban interface is critical to the water supply for Bozeman, providing 80 percent of the city’s water. Baseline Forest Service studies have indicated severe wildfires as the greatest risk to the local water supply due to potential erosion and runoff to streams following fire.

The project area is almost entirely located within a priority area for focused attention as identified in the Montana Forest Action Plan. Risks to the project area include both wildfire risk and forest health. This funding will assist in completing nearly 5,000 acres of treatments, including 3,336 acres on national forest lands, 1,200 of which being noxious weed treatments. The remaining 1,625 acres of treatment will be on adjacent private lands. Through prescribed fire, timber harvest, fuel breaks, understory thinning and weed treatments, the project seeks to improve forest health and decrease the risk of severe wildfire.

“Many partners across Montana have been collaborating for improved forest health and reduced wildfire risk. The Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership is one more piece in that puzzle,” said Tom Watson, NRCS state conservationist for Montana and Mary Erickson, forest supervisor for the Custer Gallatin National Forest. “Together, we are excited about being selected and overcoming the boundaries between private and public lands to enhance the resilience of our forests, communities, water supplies and working lands. These Joint Chiefs’ projects are excellent examples of how agencies can work together and use targeted funding to achieve dramatic conservation improvements that benefit natural resources, build drought resiliency, and address the climate crisis.”

Partners in the development and implementation of this Joint Chiefs’ project include the City of Bozeman, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Gallatin County, the Custer Gallatin Working Group and private landowners.

Planned treatment within the project area will complement more than 6,000 acres of forest health improvement work already completed or funded by NRCS and the Forest Service. Beyond protecting homes in the area from wildfire and protecting Bozeman’s municipal watersheds, collaborative work done through this project will protect evacuation routes for the safety of residents and responders, reduce wildfire risk and improve forest health.

Visit www.nrcs.usda.gov to learn more about the Gallatin Valley Forest Resiliency and Watershed Health Project.

NRCS’s Gallatin County field office is currently accepting applications from private landowners within the project area. Although NRCS accepts applications year-round, forest landowners should apply by March 4, 2022, to be eligible for this round of funding. Private forest landowners should contact Chris Mahony, NRCS District Conservationist in the Bozeman field office, at chris.mahony@usda.gov or 406 522-4012. For more information from the Custer Gallatin National Forest, contact Corey Lewellen, District Ranger, at corey.lewellen@usda.gov or 406 522-2531.

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