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You are here: Home / Research / Projects / Prescribed Burn / Gallatin Valley Resiliency and Watershed Health

Gallatin Valley Resiliency and Watershed Health

Prescribed fire, timber harvest, shaded fuel breaks, small diameter understory thinning, and weed treatments have been prioritized to meet the goals and objectives of the project.

The Gallatin Valley Forest Resiliency and Watershed Health Project is a cross-boundary collaboration effort between the U.S. Forest Service, Custer Gallatin National Forest, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Bozeman Field Office, aimed at reducing the risk of wildfire, maintaining high-quality water supply, and increasing forest health and resiliency.

This project will treat a total of 4,961 acres, which includes 3,336 acres on National Forest System lands and 1,625 acres on private lands. Prescribed fire, timber harvest, shaded fuel breaks, small diameter understory thinning, and weed treatments have been prioritized to meet the goals and objectives of the project.

The project area is all within Gallatin County, MT with treatments planned in the Gallatin Mountains; specifically the Bozeman Creek and Hyalite Creek municipal watersheds and the Bridger and Bangtail Mountains. Treatments are located within the wildland urban interface (WUI) of the City of Bozeman and Gallatin County.

Bozeman and Hyalite watersheds provide 80% of the water supply to the Bozeman community. Baseline studies have indicated the greatest risk to the local water supply is a high severity wildland fire, which could generate significant amounts of sediment and ash runoff into streams. These rainfall or snowmelt runoff events would likely generate heavy sediment loading that would exceed current treatment capacity, resulting in a shutdown of the City's water treatment plant, in turn, having significant negative impacts to the drinking supply.

As a result of fire suppression, much of the forest is functioning outside the range of natural variability and has experienced a significant decline in forest health due to presence of insect infestation and disease, with high likelihood of additional severe outbreaks and spread.

Project treatments will achieve goals and objectives across jurisdictional boundaries to reduce hazardous fuels and improve forest health, protect water supply, reduce wildfire risk, increase public and firefighter safety, and generate economic benefits to the local communities. Planned treatments will lower potential fire severity and increase forest resiliency by reducing hazardous fuels, reducing competition for resources, and returning fire to fire adapted communities.

Lower intensity fire and reduced crown fire probability will enhance firefighter safety and the effectiveness of suppression actions. Conifer removal around whitebark pine and aspen will enhance regeneration to improve health and productivity. Reduction of fuel loading will aid in protection of water quality by reducing potential sediment impacts to streams.

While not the primary objective of the project, secondary benefits to wildlife will occur through improved habitat and foraging opportunities. Private land treatments of brush management, forest stand improvement, and fuel breaks will occur mostly down gradient of the USFS focus areas. This will expand the protection offered to the municipal water supply drainages and natural resource benefits.

Private land treatments will primarily occur along major roads with limited ingress-egress and in or adjacent to subdivisions located throughout the project.

Partners: City of Bozeman, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), Gallatin County, private landowners, and the Custer Gallatin Working Group

  • FY 2022
  • FY 2022 Joint Chiefs' Landscape Restoration Project Summaries
  • Total FY22 Funding Request: $886,450
Montana: Custer-Gallatin National Forest, Gallatin County
Filed under: Wildland Fire, Research