Fuel for Thought

Hyalite Canyon, dam, spillway

An update on the Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project.

No matter the season, flocks of Bozeman-area residents and visitors converge at the Sourdough trailhead to bike, hike, ski, run, and stroll over lunch, after work, or for a quick mid-morning nature fix. The proximity of trails at the northern end of the Gallatin Range enables adventure right outside our back doors.

Starting this summer, the City of Bozeman and the Custer Gallatin National Forest are kicking off a joint project to reduce forest-fire fuels and give Bozeman’s drinking water supply an insurance policy. The Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project aims to thoughtfully and swiftly reduce fuels through prescribed burning, thinning, and timber removal.

Eighty percent of Bozeman’s drinking water comes from Bozeman and Hyalite creeks, and a wildfire event in those areas could put our community drinking-water supply at risk through sediment and ash infiltration. The City is collaborating with the Forest Service to proactively protect Bozeman’s drinking water while promoting healthy forest ecology.

How will the BMWP work affect you? Starting immediately, forest crews will be marking trees and doing general work in the Sourdough Trail and Moser Creek areas. You will still be able to fully recreate, as well as give crews a wave and a “thank you” while cruising by.

Starting in the fall of 2021, Sourdough Canyon will be closed to all recreation for a period of three weeks. During this time, forest crews will be removing timber via helicopter, so multiple trailheads will be closed for safety. Area closures and dates will be released well in advance before closures go into effect—worry not, you’ll still be able to plot your Mystic Lake adventures appropriately.

In addition to work near Sourdough Trail, forest crews will be thinning along the Leverich Gulch Trail, and possibly in areas along Moser Ridge. At this time, no closures are planned for those areas, but that could change. Please be careful when you’re out and about, and stay out of the way of forest-thinning activities.

In addition to trail closures, you might notice some increased traffic on roadways near Bozeman Creek and Moser Ridge. Pay attention to posted signage and watch for semis and trucks.

Curious to learn more? Get on our mailing list so we can alert you of community meetings and project updates. Visit the Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project’s website at bznwatershed.com and view work-area maps, details on forest-fuels reduction treatments, information on healthy water, and more.

Most importantly, get out there and responsibly enjoy this beautiful area, a recreational and ecological gem just a few short miles from downtown. We’ll see you there.

Marna Daley loves dogs, camping, and working as the public-affairs officer for the Custer Gallatin National Forest.