Custer Gallatin Forest Announces Ecotonal Habitat Restoration Project Decision
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: September 13, 2021

Bozeman, MT (September 13, 2021) – Mary Erickson, Custer Gallatin Forest Supervisor announced today her decision for the Ecotonal Habitat Restoration project.

“I’m excited to announce my decision to maintain and restore “ecotonal habitats” across the Custer Gallatin National Forest.  These ecotonal habitats include aspen, whitebark and limber pine, the grassland/forest interface, riparian areas, woody draws and montane ponderosa pine,” said Mary Erickson, Custer Gallatin Forest Supervisor.  “Though these communities occupy a small footprint across the Forest landscape, they are disproportionately important for wildlife and biodiversity.   Restoration work will be implemented over the next 10 to 15 years, with typically three to six projects a year, generally ranging from fifty to a thousand acres for non-commercial mechanical treatments to several thousand acres for prescribed burning. “

Work in ecotonal zones will help restore the health and vigor of habitats in many ways including:

  • Aspen treatments (thinning, prescribed fire, mechanical treatments) will promote sprouting of young trees so that the aspen stands and the landscape have a variety of age classes present.
  • Whitebark and limber pine treatments will reduce competition from other species resulting in more cone producing trees.   Reduced competition also provides better growing conditions so that mature trees are less susceptible to mountain pine beetle infestation.
  • Treatments in meadow/grassland and forest interface ecotones will promote a greater variety of forbs, a high diversity of native perennial cool and warm season grasses, and well-developed soils as site conditions allow.
  • Riparian area treatments will maintain native vegetation and stream conditions so that so that stream channels and adjacent vegetation can adapt to natural disturbance.
  • Woody draws are a rare and biologically important landscape component.  Treatments will create stands that are multi-layered and multi-aged classes of herbaceous plants, shrubs, and trees.
  • Montane ponderosa pine treatments will increase presence of this habitat by opening up stands to support low and mixed severity fire burns in these areas instead of stand replacing fire.

For more information on this decision please contact Teri Seth, Interdisciplinary Team Leader (theresa.seth@ussda.gov) or Scott Barndt, Ecosystem Staff Officer (scott.barndt@usda.gov ).  The decision memo is available for review on our Forest webpage at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=56145