Scientists are concerned the environment is becoming too dry for some seedlings to grow back in the West, and the U.S. Forest Service is making plans to address this.
Earlier snowmelt, loss of snowpack, longer growing seasons and reduced water availability will increase fire potential at all elevations through the middle of the century, according to the Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment released in the summer of 2021.
As a result, at lower elevations forested areas may become grasslands and at higher elevations, forest trees will give way to fast-growing trees that are better-adapted to wildfires according to the assessment.
“It’s easy to lose trees because you just need a disturbance event,” said Montana State University professor Cathy Whitlock to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. “The thing that will take decades is to see how the composition of the forest changes. You’re not going to notice it in a year, but you will notice it over the next few decades.” Whitlock was a co-lead on the newly released Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment.
Much of that state’s land, as well as bordering South Dakota’s, is encompassed by the 3.1-million acre Custer Gallatin National Forest. The Forest Service released the draft of a new land management plan to help direct the overseeing of the Custer Gallatin National Forest. Comment on the first draft of the plan, which was released in July 2020, have been collected, and the final plan is expected to be released this fall.