Thanks to Derek for this link.
Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project to move forward
CARLY FLANDRO, Chronicle Staff Writer | Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 12:15 am
A controversial plan to thin part of the Gallatin National Forest south of Bozeman is set to move forward — for now, anyway.
The Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project calls for burning, harvesting and thinning 4,800 acres in the Hyalite and Bozeman Creek drainages. Those drainages supply more than 80 percent of the Bozeman area’s water, and thinning efforts there are intended to reduce the extent of any potential wildfires.
A severe wildfire could put so much sediment and ash in the creeks, officials have said, that intakes for the water utility could clog and the city could be cut off from its water.
“The city of Bozeman and the Gallatin National Forest remain committed to maintaining a high-quality, predictable water supply for Bozeman’s residents,” said Debbie Arkell, director of public services for the city of Bozeman.
A trio of conservation groups – Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Montana Ecosystem Defense Council and Native Ecosystems Council – had a number of concerns with the plan, including that it would harm habitat for wildlife species such as lynx and grizzly bears.
They presented their concerns via administrative appeal to Jane L. Cottrell, the region 1 deputy regional forester, who recently upheld the watershed plan.
“I find the forest supervisor has made a reasoned decision and has complied with all laws, regulations, and policy,” Cottrell wrote in a letter to Michael Garrity, executive director of Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “Your requested relief is denied.”
It was the third time conservation groups have challenged the proposal.
Garrity said the next step “would be to file a lawsuit in federal district court.” He said his organization will consult with its attorney about whether to take that action.
Thinning activities are anticipated to begin by late fall of 2012. Some of the fuels reduction will take place along road corridors to provide safer conditions for firefighters and the public and reduce the risk of wildfire spreading between national forest lands and private lands.
“The forest is looking forward to continuing to work with the city and the Bozeman community to implement this project,” said Lisa Stoeffler, Bozeman district ranger. “We are grateful for the continued community and partner support for this important project.”